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

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Doc Watch: Closed For Storm (2020)





Watched:  06/07/2022
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jake Williams


While I've been sick, I've been watching some urban explorer videos and whatnot, and one of the videos I was watching pitched a full documentary the team had put together about the abandoned Six Flags New Orleans.  It's one thing to make a YouTube video with some footage of derelict buildings and combine it with found images and video, and whatever history you can piece together from the internet (which is often shockingly in-depth), so I was curious to see what a full doc looked like when these same folks put in some doc-style labor.  

Closed for Storm (2020) is a solid feature-length-ish effort.  Like the short-form videos by the same team, it chronicles the intentions, financial big movements that impacted the development of the facility, the actual use of the facility, and the factors that led to the decline.  In prior shorter videos, those factors are usually directly economic paired with bad luck and one or two other things, forseeable and otherwise.

Closed for Storm has to grapple with 2005's hurricane Katrina and the impact on New Orleans and the rise and abrupt end to Six Flags New Orleans.  It documents the bizarre purgatory of the property as it sits, rotting more every year, no one making any moves to level the place or do something with it.  The film winds up being a microcosm of the well-documented perfect storm that is Louisiana politics, callowness of big business, economic disparity in action, and the undealt with trauma of a region

As a micro-budget production by folks doing their best, not all of the film feels as polished as it could be.  I was expecting as much.  But it shows promise for the filmmakers if they can continue to elevate this core concept of using something as crazy as an abandoned theme park as a story telling device to illustrate how shit kinda really works/ doesn't work.  

Unlike Astroworld, which was apparently simply financially failing (news to me), Six Flags New Orleans was lost to the storm and given up on by new owners of Six Flags.  From 2005 to the release of this film, the city of New Orleans, never famous for its decision-making, has left the remains of the park to simply rot, rejecting all proposals.  And if you've ever sat through a bureaucratic process like an RFQ proposal, you know there's intense disinterest and misunderstanding by the persons involved.  So, instead of having literally anything else there, the park has just rotted.

Interviews include attendees, former employees, and the folks trying to find ways to revive the property.  Everyone is deeply sincere, and it's a layer to the usual "why it failed" and "urban explorer" videos you see all over YouTube.  We're not just guessing, the video is talking to people who were there, who lost jobs and who saw a good thing for the community abandoned rather than rebuilt, like so much of New Orleans.  But it seems they couldn't get any of the city-folks who so cavalierly dismiss the park year after year.

If I felt like one major point roughly implied, but not directly stated:  the kinds of people who are making decisions about the future of the amusement park shown in the video are not the kind of people who would give one much thought.  I'm not saying they need to be amusement park nerds, but.  They strike me as the sorts of folks who can take days of vacation and jump on a jet and go to Disney if they want to see an amusement park, or go skiing or do whatever.  But vast parts of the population can't afford to and don't do those things.  In a city like New Orleans, which is largely aimed at adult entertainment or expensive pro sports, an amusement park is no small thing.   

Anyway - I hope these folks keep working on their films.  It feels like there's a lot here to consider, and using specific examples of entertainment properties and resorts is fascinating way to consider economic and cultural forces.


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Comedy Watch: Senior Year (2022)




Watched:  06/06/2022
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Director:  Alex Hardcastle

So, it's impossible to talk about this movie and just talk about the movie.  

First, let's get it out of the way - this is a movie that was never, ever intended for me.  So proceed with caution.

Second - this is the first I've seen of Rebel Wilson in a while, and, yes, she's worked hard to reduce, as we once said.  She always looked terrific, and she continues to do so (that is not her actual body in the poster above, which is weird).  Rebel Wilson is all about the eyes and smile, and so long as those don't change, we're good.*

Third - we may now discuss the plot, which opens the can of worms.  

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Mystery Watch: Death on the Nile (2022)



Watched:  06/04/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Kenneth Branagh

I have not read any Agatha Christie, which seems like a really stupid blind spot for me to have, but here we are.  I have also not watched Poirot mysteries on PBS and I haven't watched the older versions of these same stories.  I assumed I'd get to them, and I haven't.  Life is short and I mostly waste it.  I did watch the prior movie starring director/ star/ producer Kenneth Branagh, Murder on the Orient Express, and I thought, as a movie, it was pretty solid. Nothing to win awards, but accomplished what it wanted to do.

But as I have COVID and I was trying to figure out how well my brain was working, seeing if I could follow a Poirot mystery seemed like a good idea.  And the answer is - I could follow it!

I 10,000% suspect that this movie is just the bare bones of the original novel, which I am not looking up to check, as I should read the book at some point and I don't want to ruin it. 

This one had a few things going against it.  

Friday, May 13, 2022

PodCast 199: "The Batman" (2022)- a Kryptonian Thought Beast Episode w/ JAL and Ryan




Watched:  05/01/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing: First
Decade: 2020's
Director:  Matt Reeves




It's no riddle which flying rodent-enthusiast had a blockbuster in 2022. The Dynamic Duo of JAL and Ryan get back to the Batcave to talk all about the latest take on the Dark Knight Detective. It's time to get broody as we go batty talking how this one fits in with the big picture, and what makes it unique.


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
The Batman - Michael Giacchino, The Batman OST 
Batman - Neal Helfi
Something In the Way - Nirvana, Nevermind 

DC Movies Playlist

Monday, May 9, 2022

Dog Watch: Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021)



Watched:  05/06/2021
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Walt Becker

I dunno.  This is for very small kids, but it also felt like it wasted a lot of goodwill and a lot of potential.  Clifford is a character I don't think about much as I am 47 and I have no children.  But I think if all you can think to do is make a boilerplate kiddie movie that seems lifted from every kiddie movie since Uncle Wat turned his attention to live-action, I dunno.  He's a big fucking dog.  Workshop that shit.  

The movie is chock full of cameos and small roles for known talent and looks like they spent some money on it.  It's a beloved and well known character, and...  it kinda feels like they didn't really know what to do once they got the rights.  

It also takes place in the city, which...  look, maybe the first book is urban, but Clifford is a suburban character.  NYC is a lot of things, but it is not a place where a giant dog is going to fit terribly well long term (he wrote as his own giant dog put his massive noggin on his hand and keyboard).  Like - look, the 'burbs are more dull and less diverse than Harlem - but this is also a fictional movie, and/ or could have been in a small town?  I don't get the setting.  It's okay to country-fi that story.

Maybe the thing that was weirdest about the movie is that it desperately wants to be about *something*, and the thing Clifford had going for him in his origin story is the power of love (to turn a small sickly puppy into a giant dog).  But the movie decides to be about accepting something/ someone who is different.  But then it's about very White people in gentrifying Harlem who seem boringly ordinary, even the wacky uncle who needs to grow up borrowed from every movie, ever.  

I'm all about messages of "hey, don't fear something because it's different or you don't understand it", but the speech at the end is wildly nonsensical and unearned.  Being "new to school" is not weird or different, it's...  an uncomfortable period of adjustment (I moved 3 times during my school years.  You adjust.).  Our Emily Elizabeth is a pretty standard kid.  She doesn't have a third eye or something.  She's "poor", but NYC giant apartment poor.  Normal in her world is having a 27 million dollar loft.

Honestly - who wrote this thing?

Anyway.  I thought the cast looked like they were having fun, Clifford was cute and the last act was at least kind of fun/ funny.  I wouldn't not show this to a small child.  But I also am disappointed that this is the Clifford movie we got.  It's better than the Air Buddies movies by a country mile, but it's still... meh.  Gimme a trick or treating Clifford of GTFO.  

Paddington raised the bar for timeless children's characters into movies, studios.  Work harder.


Friday, April 29, 2022

PodCast 196: "Spider-Man: No Way Home" (2021) - A Marvel Madness PodCast w/ Jamie & Ryan



Watched:  04/15/2022
Format:  BluRay
Viewing: First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Jon Watts




Jamie and Ryan finally catch up with the gigantic Spider-Man movie from 2021, ponder multiverses, wish fulfillment, and doing something that maybe shouldn't have worked, but did. It's a post-game chat after watching a deeply complicated movie that was either a celebration of Marvel's most beloved hero on film, or it was a very, very weird thing to do/ cash-grab.


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
Arachnoverture - Michael Giacchino


Marvel Madness Playlist

Sunday, April 17, 2022

PodCast 194: "Turning Red" (2022) - Pixar Talk w/ Ryan Michero, Maxwell, Nathan C and me




Watched:  04/09/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Domee Shi




With a new Pixar film, Ryan Michero returns to the podcast to fill us in on what he was up to on the film. We get a behind-the-scenes peek at the film, and talk a lot about what makes art, technology and story all work, Pixar-style! And, Ryan S gets mad about ginned up controversies.


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
Nobody Like U - by Billie Eilish and Finneas and performed by 4*Town
U Know What's Up - by Billie Eilish and Finneas and performed by 4*Town


Pixar Talk Playlist

Saturday, April 9, 2022

PODCAST: 192: "New Mutants" (2020) - A Marvel Madness Episode w/ Danny Horn and Ryan




Watched:  03/26/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Josh Boone




Puberty is a challenging time. You're growing, changing, making new discoveries and accidentally murdering bystanders with your newfound powers. Danny and Ryan splice into the genetics of this long-delayed installment in the X-franchise, the arrival of which signaled the last gasps of Fox Studios' X-films. Join us as we ponder what the movie thinks it is, what it is, and try to retain control.


SoundCloud 


YouTube


Music:
The New Mutants Score Suite - Mark Snow


Marvel Madness Playlist

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Verhoeven Watch: Benedetta (2021)




Watched:  04/01/2021
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Paul Verhoeven

In the wake of Showgirls, I was curious about what Verhoeven is up to these days.  I knew he'd more or less self-exiled to Europe.  For a director I like, I really hadn't seen his post-90's stuff, so when Justin alerted me Verhoeven had put something out last year, I gave it a whirl.

This is, as we used to say, a Stefon movie.



It's a hell of a thing to watch right on the heels of Showgirls, as this is a movie about nuns, faith, politics and religion, plagues, religious fervor, power dynamics, relativism in truth and morality, and - because it's Paul Verhoeven - eroticism and sexy nuns.  It's also loosely based on real events, changed enough it's not historical fiction in most ways, but... yeah.  Some of this is documented.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Doc Watch: Summer of Soul (2021)




Watched:  03/30/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Questlove

I started watching Summer of Soul (2021) last year on Hulu, but got in trouble with Jamie for starting it without her.  But somehow we never circled back and watched it.  

Well, I guess it won an Academy Award, so that's a feather in Questlove's cap.  And well deserved.  But it also means there's no real reason for me to further discuss or sell you on this movie.  Or even explain it.  

It's a really beautiful, amazing thing.  Watch it.


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Pixar Watch: Turning Red (2022)




Watched:  03/15/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Domee Shi

I'm going to try to secure Michero to come in and talk about Turning Red (2022), so no lengthy write-up.  

Uh...  so.  How to do this if there will be a podcast?  

I liked it!  You should watch it.  Definitely a great one for the kids hitting late elementary school and up.  It's gonna feel familiar.  For the younger ones, a foretaste of what's coming.

I have a few theories about why it took place in 2002, but will try to verify.  


Friday, March 11, 2022

Doc Watch: Lucy and Desi (2022)




Watched:  03/08/2022
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Director/ Producer:  Amy Poehler

I don't know that I would have looked at Amy Poehler standing on one leg on SNL a couple decades ago and thought "documentarian", but - apparently along with her skills as a comedian/ actor/ director/ writer/ improviser/ producer, we can now include documentarian.

I had no interest in the recently released biopic by Aaron Sorkin.  I'm not a Sorkin-head, and I generally find biopics of well-documented people are really about something going on with the creators, not the actual subjects.  Maybe it's the history major in me, but coming up with make-believe scenes to illustrate some fundamental message imposed on people's lives, you're going to wind up with something between an impression and a grotesquerie.  But, I dunno.  Sometimes it works.  

Documentary, done well, tends to surface actual themes and truths about the subjects as directors find their story in repeated beats in research and interviews.  And when it comes to real people who, once upon a time, were routinely covered in tabloids even after their deaths, who were in our living rooms for decades (I watched reruns of I Love Lucy as a kid), give me some talking heads, production stills and 8mm family movies every time.  

There's a lot here I didn't know, much I did through osmosis mover the years.  But it's well done and - with so many years since the passing of both Lucy and Desi, can afford to be fair-handed as possible while being sympathetic to certain quirks and challenges of both personalities.  That Poehler would see some of her self in Lucille Ball, as a comedian who has been at the top, continues to enjoy celebrity and side projects that are not the heights of what she's known for, but which are solid nonetheless...  I am not entirely shocked she picked Ball as a subject worth of research with whom she could spend time.

The one thing I found profoundly odd that the doc doesn't mention is that Lucy was about 40 when she started working on I Love Lucy.  She was giving birth to children in her 40's, starring in her show and building Desilu essentially in the back-half of a career.  I don't know if Poehler thought it was ageism or sexism or something that need not be discussed, but frankly I think it's vital information for how remarkable Lucille Ball was, because I've seen a few of her films from before the crafted I Love Lucy persona, and it's a different actor.  And second acts should always be celebrated.

Anyway, I'm thrilled Poehler made the doc, and it's as well done as I think you could hope for.  


Saturday, March 5, 2022

Doc Watch: Class Action Park (2020)




Watched:  03/01/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Director:  Seth Porges

In the way of so many documentaries, this one was about 85% of the way there, but I couldn't go with them the last stretch of the film when they try to "make sense of it all".  Class Action Park (2020) is a feature-length doc about the notorious amusement park, Action Park, formerly located outside of New York City that has, since the early 00's, spawned legends of how out of control the place was, and, in fact, dangerous.  Open through the 1980's, the park was one of hundreds, if not thousands, dotting America.

The first half of the film is hysterical as you take a look at the rides and hear tales of how the place was owned and operated by a former penny-stocks Wall Street tycoon banned from the market by the SEC (I think).  He took his Randian concept of personal risk and responsibility as a businessman, applied that to amusement park attendance, and built a two-sided theme park - one side water-based rides like slides and wavepools, and the other being go-karts.  For anyone growing up in the 1980's, you'll see a lot of things you also took part in.  Bumper boats, go-karts, water slides.  But our go-karts at Malibu Grand Prix had speed governors.  Theirs did not.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Noir Watch: Nightmare Alley (2021)




Watched:  02/11/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Director:  Guillermo Del Toro


I've seen the original Nightmare Alley from 1947 a number of times.  I'm sure you can dig through the archives of this here site and find mentions, but what I would say is that on repeated viewings, for a movie that was so... grim and off-kilter, I felt compelled to rewatch the story of Stanton Carlisle and the worlds between which he moved.  And I found myself increasingly blown away with each viewing.  Today, the 1947 version is included in the pile of movies I would request to have when stranded on an island with a bluray player and television.

It was with some trepidation that I heard that director Guillermo Del Toro had taken on the movie for a remake, and that with writer Kim "Sunset Gun" Morgan, he'd be adhering more closely to the novel.  I have flat out not liked some of Del Toro's films (Pacific Rim) and not understood the hoopla around others (The Shape of Water).  But had enjoyed some of what I'd seen, which wasn't a lot.  

Saturday, February 5, 2022

PodCast 182: "No Time To Die" (2021) - A Bond PodCast Episode w/ SimonUK and Ryan




Watched:  01/30/2022
Format:  BluRay
Viewing: First
Director:  Cary Joji Fukunaga




SimonUK and Ryan finally get to the final appearance of Daniel Craig as everyone's favorite problematic Brit who isn't SimonUK himself. It's international intrigue, adventure, architecture, and gliders-which-are-boats! Get recruited into another fine installment of our occasional Bond-ian film discussion!






Music:
No Time to Die - Billie Eilish
 


Bond Watch Playlist

Sunday, January 30, 2022

PodCast 181: "Eternals" (2021) - Marvel Movie Madness w/ Jamie and Ryan




Watched: 01/15/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Chloe Zhao




Jamie and Ryan take on the 2021 Marvel entry that some has said has an eternal runtime. It's got a cast of thousands, and that's just the Eternals themselves. Join us as we get Kirby-tastic!






Music:
Eternally - Englebert Humperdink
Eternal Flame - The Bangles


Marvel Movies

Rock Watch: The Nowhere Inn (2021)




Watched:  01/29/2022
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Director:  Bill Benz

Rock stardom in the modern era is not what I think it was 30 years ago.  Sure, there are acts that can fill a stadium these days, but in the age of splintered genres, channels, modes of consuming music, etc...  when is someone "famous" as a musician or band?

The Nowhere Inn (2021) is a very small film that can very much feel like Annie Clark (aka: St. Vincent/ aka: Annie Clark) and Carrie Brownstein fucking around with a budget and telling a rock-and-roll fable that falls somewhere between Ziggy Stardust and Lynch and/ or a dozen other "identity" films.  That's not to say it isn't a watchable and interesting film, but it flits between "I feel like I've seen this before", "Oh, this is a very fun bit", and "people are assuming I know a lot more about Carrie Brownstein and Annie Clark's lives than I do".  

I genuinely cannot remember seeing a movie before that seemed so unclear on the idea that movies are a mass medium and need to contain everything the viewer needs to know - making references to information I'd be lost without from interviews I glanced at between 6 months and 4 years ago is... a choice.  

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Marvel Re-Watch: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)




Watched: 01/27/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Second/ Third (I rewatched 3/4ths of this movie a few days after I watched it the first time)
Director:  Destin Daniel Cretton


A rewatch with some time under my belt made me appreciate this movie even more, and I'd take back some of what I said on the podcast about Shang-Chi not having enough to do.  It's less than others, but he's doing plenty.  And Simu Liu is absolutely present in every scene.  There's a lot going on with his character and it's there in small looks and reactions.  Acting is reacting, and he's nailing that - in character as an observer who has a lot going on inside that he doesn't say out loud.

Between excellent all-ages action, very strong performers, and some deft world-building, I won't say it's a flawless film, but it's so... watchable.  And the characters all so well defined, I want to hang out with everyone in the film, even the bad guys.  I mean, I don't care what bad stuff Tony Leung's Xu Wenwu is supposed to have done, he seems cool AF.

I also am not as certain where Xialing winds up at the end of the film.  Is she reforming the Ten Rings organization?  Tilting back to running her dad's criminal empire?  The Ten Rings have sided with Ta Lo, and Xialing has fought nobly with her brother and Ying Nan's crew, so...  anyway, I enjoy the ambiguity at the end.  

And hats off to Awkwafina, who is both hilarious and absolutely grounds the film without shouting "say what....?" after every revelation.  The decade of friendship with Shang-Chi means she's very much working to understand the world, but we're never told by a very funny character that we shouldn't take it seriously.  That's something you would not have seen pre-Marvel Studios.

Anyhoo...  I love this movie.  I don't do top 10 lists or anything, but I do feel like this is up there with the movies I'll rewatch for years on end.  




Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Action Watch: Nobody (2021)




Watched:  01/23/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Director:  Ilya Naishuller

Had COVID not been a factor, I would have probably seen Nobody (2021) in the theater.  It seemed like a simple movie - and it is.  It's an excuse for both a middle-aged-guy action fantasy, as well as videogame-style super action, just below the absurdities of John Wick (worth noting, this is written by the same guy, Derek Kolstad).  The kind of movie where our hero cannot be killed even if 20 guys with guns are coming at him and he does Krav Maga and Gun-Fu while they come at him, inexplicably, one on one and the baddies can't hit the hero when they all shoot at him for 30 feet away.

It doesn't mean it isn't fun.  It is!  

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Doc Watch: "The Rescue" (2021) - A National Geographic Documentary




Watched:  01/20/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Directors:  Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi/ Jimmy Chin

Back in 2018, I recall a story breaking on the news about 12 Thai soccer players and their coach trapped in a cave that had been flooded by summer rains.  I'm going to be completely candid:  I heard the details and immediately tuned out the story afterwards.  Everything I heard told me that this story would end with 12 dead children and a dead coach.  And probably some rescue crew.  In what seemed a bleak year (ha ha... how little we knew then!), signing myself up for updates on what seemed a deathwatch just seemed morbid.

And then someone told me "no, they got out.  Yes, all of them."

I read some details of what had happened and it seemed like madness, but I wrote it off as "boy, I guess Navy SEALS really know their stuff."

Forget all of that.

The Rescue (2021), knows you know those broad strokes, but recreates the timeline of the story through interviews, actual footage from the participants, some occasional recreation footage (using the actual participants), news footage and some excellent graphics.  And the story is both one-hundred times more unbelievable than you're expecting and ultimately, that same level of magnitude a story of the best in humanity.  

I hesitate to talk too much about the logistics or even about the participants, but it is fascinating to find out that the main divers to assist in the search and rescue were private citizens, mostly from the UK, cave diving hobbyists who put everything on the line for this effort.  And you may ask yourself "what sort of person scuba dives in caves?"  And that would be a *great* question, because these are not extreme sports enthusiasts, but an assortment of misfits and the kind of people who will go into a body of water completely surrounded by rock on all sides.

It doesn't matter that you know that the kids made it out.  The movie broke me with footage of a young mother standing at the cave's mouth calling to her son to come home, and just kept whittling me down from there.  Yes, the divers are remarkable, but 13 boys also held together, monumental efforts took place to move rivers, to find alternatives and support the ongoing work.  

I very much remember the drama of Baby Jessica's rescue from a well in West Texas and how the people of West Texas pulled together to save one child.  Here, an international collective and thousands of locals pitched in.

Give it a shot.  You might momentarily have faith in us as a species.  You might also believe some cosmic convergence is possible.