Showing posts with label First viewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First viewing. Show all posts

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Modern Horror Watch: The Conjuring (2013)




Watched:  09/25/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  James Wan

So, it's not a huge secret that I'm a little skeptical of a lot of horror.  When you're like "you know that scene in Hereditary?" I'm like "Nope."  I mean, I just don't make time for it.  I'd rather be watching guys in large suits make time with dames with great hair and schemes.

But enough has been said about The Conjuring from 2013, that I finally watched it as I rev up for Halloween season.  And, I genuinely liked it.  Well, I liked about half of it.  The rest was fine.  Which I know will be taken as "bad", but that's not what I mean.  I was fine with it up to a point, and then I really liked it.

My favorite haunted house movie is and will be a tie between The Shining and 1963's version of The Haunting.  But... this one sure ain't bad.  And, as was discussed elsewhere with MBell, this is a Stefon movie.  

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Mixed-Feelings Watch: Man on a Tightrope (1953)




Watched:  09/23/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Elia Kazan

I'm somewhat shocked I'd never heard of this movie before.  But, that's what TCM is all about - pulling out movies from the library and saying "here you go.  This one's solid.  Folks used to know how to make a movie, huh?"  

Brought to TCM on a night in which Dana Delaney co-hosted (with Eddie Muller) a slate of films featuring screen legend Gloria Grahame, Delaney came ready to talk.  

Look - I have some mixed feelings on this one.  It's a terrific movie.  I believe in the conceit of the film, and I think Muller explained it as well as you could, so I'm in a hard-agree mode.  As much as I generally agree that Kazan is an amazing director, the guy named names during HUAC that did a lot of damage.  

So, when a movie is about the iron grip of post WWII Soviet-style governance in Czechoslovakia, and how it pushes an a-political head of a circus to consider his options...  well, I tend to agree with anyone who wasn't a fan of Stalinism or the authoritarian/ police-state governance employed in Eastern Europe.  This movie could easily spin up a TL;DR post or a full college thesis, but... I'll be merciful. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Melodrama Watch: All That Heaven Allows (1955)




Watched:  09/24/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's (so, so 1950's)
Director:  Douglas Sirk

Douglas Sirk was a @#$%ing mad man.  

This is one of the most bizarre looking and beautiful movies I've ever seen - like someone went to technicolor and just said "this one goes to 11".  Every shot looks like one of those super-saturated ads from a 1950's print magazine, is perfectly framed and blocked.  It's just amazing to look at. 

The story is not exactly whisper thin, and it's some very real stuff served up as a fluffy morality play.  Sirk was a guy who knew his audience - we first studied him in the "women's pictures" unit in film school.  But that audience is absolutely not just women, it just puts women front and center in their own stories.  

Jane Wyman (Ms. Falconcrest herself) plays a middle-aged widow with two grown kids (well, college-aged) who is dealing with the nonsense of East Coast bougie social life, including husbands making passes at her (not cool, husbands).  Wyman's best pal is, of course, Agnes Moorehead.  Who looks fantastic by the way.*

Monday, September 20, 2021

Roller Watch: Unholy Rollers (1972)




Watched:  09/18/2021
Format:  TCM Underground
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Vernon Zimmerman

Probably most famous for its editor of all things (a young lad name of Martin Scorsese), it's a Roger Corman movie about the rise and fall of a wayward young woman with a temper who finds stardom in the Roller Derby!

Starring Claudia Jennings - a person I'm surprised hasn't had a movie made about her life - it's a no-budget production that mostly relies on the drift in what you could show on a screen in 1972, and that meant lots of casual partial nudity.  Which was what I associated with Roger Corman when I first knew who he was as a teen, and isn't really accurate.  

The movie also has, oddly, Joe E. Tata! of 90210 fame, and Kathleen Freeman looking like she doesn't want to be there more than usual.

Look, it's a cheap and trashy movie, and that's the fun of it.  I didn't tune into Unholy Rollers (1972) because I was expecting a David Lean film.  That it shifts gears and tries to tell a story about the perils of roller derby stardom is almost weird.  But if the movie lasts long enough, I guess it's going to tell some kind of story one way or another.  I'm just not sure why they went for a downbeat ending.  

I mean, it's not Mean Streets downbeat, but it's also not a "and she skated happily ever after".

Anyway.  It does a great job of explaining and showing off roller derby, and made me miss going to bouts.



Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Noir Watch: Drive a Crooked Road (1954)




Watched:  09/15/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Richard Quine

Before the movie, Muller pointed out that this film sure feels like the same story they use in The Killers from 1964.  If you asked me which to pick, I'd say to reach for The Killers, unless you have the option of the 1946 The Killers, which shares only some cosmetic similarities.  

But, Drive a Crooked Road (1954) was better than I figured, but still not setting the world on fire.  Starring Mickey Rooney as a lonely-hearts mechanic and would-be-race-car-driver, it hits all the beats of noir in a very small scale and is intended to give Rooney a new persona as far from Andy Hardy as possible. 

It doesn't hurt that a young Kevin McCarthy plays a bank-robber who sets up Rooney to fall for his girl, the Rita Hayworth-ish Dianne Foster, and get him wrapped up into a bank robbery as the get away wheelman.  

And, unlike most noir films, they do literally perform the action of the title and drive a crooked road to get away from a bank as we turn the corner into the third act.  

Foster is... okay.  She was clearly signed because she... looks good on film.  But she never quite knocks it out of the park in the charisma department or has that ineffable quality that would have made a really solid femme fatale role one for the ages.  She's not boring, and you get how Rooney's character can't believe how his fortunes have turned when she shows interest, but I can imagine the role in someone else's hands (Rhonda Fleming, honestly) and how much more they might have squeezed out of the part.

McCarthy and his pal played by Jack Kelly are a buyable counterpoint to Rooney's guileless driver.

What really struck me was the third act feeling like crime fiction of the era and earlier, with the quiet, doomed ending when I expected the usual Hayes-approved turn to escape and a happy life for our protagonist as his bad-girl turns good.

Nope.

Anyway, a great installment for this week's Noir Alley.

Waters Watch: Cecil B. Demented (2000)




Watched:  09/13/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  John Waters

2000 was a year for us at our house.  So, I'm not surprised that we missed the release of Cecil B. Demented (2000).  

You could easily release this film today and it would mean as much or more as it would have in 2000, when at least you were coming off an era of people *pretending* to care about indie cinema, if not outlaw cinema.  But here in 2021, the movie - if you ignore the casual violence and how you'd need to reframe it a bit now - is perhaps more relevant than ever as the studios have been purchased by mega corporations and warped the face of the film industry.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Brit Noir Watch: Cloudburst (1951)




Watched:  09/06/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:

There's trouble!  Right here in London City!

It's interesting that the French focused so hard on the American films they'd dub "film noir".  It's not like the British weren't making gloomy crime movies around the same time.  Night and the City, Brighton Rock and others point not just to the "noir movement" in England, but that the films made there weren't afraid to go incredibly dark.

Produced by Hammer (they did more than horror, kids), this one stars American Robert Preston as a Canadian in service to British Intelligence as a codebreaker still doing his work in the wake of WWII to help prosecute war criminals.  The film takes place just a year after the war, and Preston is married to a fellow intelligence officer whom he fell in love with during their time as POWs, where both were tortured.

They have a chance now at a happy, calm life, with a baby on the way, when - one night as they pause on a country roadside considering buying some property, Preston's wife is struck and killed by criminals escaping a murder.  

Monday, September 6, 2021

90's Watch: Without You I'm Nothing (1990)



Watched:  09/06/2021
Format:  TCM Underground
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  John Boskovich

This is a weird watch in 2021.  I couldn't remember where Sandra Bernhard was on the cultural radar in 1990.  I certainly knew who she was as I was exiting high school in Spring of 1993, and thereby hangs a tale for another day, but in 1990?  Was she yet TV famous?  

I will say this - I do remember kind of adoring Sandra Bernhard in high school.  She was, like, a lot.  But for a late-80's/ early-90's context, she was candid and caustic and smart as hell, and there wasn't much of that on TV (and less so in real life).  And, she had some talent!

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Wow Watch: Sorry To Bother You (2018)




Watched:  09/04/2021
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Boots Riley

Man, I am not even going to try to summarize or reflect on this movie.

What I do know is that AmyC was going to make me podcast this, and it would have been one in a series of movies Amy woud have shown me that would have blown my mind and then she would have been, like, "hey - react!"  I love that she does this, but I think I always spend the first 5-15 minutes of those podcasts trying to get my thoughts in order.

Anyway - HIGHLY recommended.   You haven't seen anything like it.



Saturday, September 4, 2021

Comics BioPic Watch: Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (2017)



Watched:  09/04/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director/ Writer:  Angela Robinson

Why do biopics exist?  

No, really.  Because I don't think producers really know.  

Taking someone else's life and presenting it to the populace in order to tell a story that you want to tell, when you can't be bothered with reality or facts, is a tremendous disservice to the people you're speaking for.  It also means that whatever story you're telling - the point of it, whatever that might be - is now hopelessly compromised the moment someone googles the subject of your film.  Whatever homily you hoped to make of a life isn't going to survive first contact with anyone wondering why the hell you changed so many things.  The hubris, man.

Look, I am not a William Moulton Marston scholar.  I've read possibly three or four books about the history of Wonder Woman over the past 25 years, and I've done my fair share of reading of articles on and offline on same, and therefore touched upon the people at the center of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017).  

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Screwball Magic Comedy Watch: I Married a Witch (1942)




Watched:  09/02/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Rene Clair

Uh, look.  I know this movie is well regarded, but it wasn't my cup of tea.  It had some great ideas, some terrific effects for the era (and during WWII, no less).  And, let's be honest, I'd watch Veronica Lake do her taxes.

But it never hit me as funny, somehow.  Which seems like a good thing for a comedy to do.  It felt like it should have starred William Powell, and the pacing should have been different.  But the co-stars have no chemistry, and I think I turned it off 3 times before I finished it.

So.  A good one for other people, but.  Not so much me, which I was a bit sad about.  I know people love this.



Monday, August 30, 2021

Horror Catch-Up Watch: Candyman (1992)




Watched:  08/29/2021
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Bernard Rose

Interesting.

So help me, from 1992 until about, oh, 2016, I thought Candyman (1992) was just another quick, cheaply produced horror entry along the lines of (forgive me) Leprechaun.  I really thought it was horny teens saying "Bloody Mary" in a mirror and getting murdered, and that seemed.... stupid.  I don't really care about a lot of horror, and that seemed like a good one to not care about.

In college (1993) I lived on the "arts" floor in Jester West, and our two study lounges had large murals painted on the walls from students past.  One room had kinda Nagel-esque pictures of pianos or something, and the other had a (not amazing) mural of Jimi Hendrix.  One day, a very nice girl from my floor came in there while I was studying and was upset she couldn't use the other room for one reason or another, and I said "well, you can study here.  I'm just reading." and she said "Nope.  That mural looks like Candyman."  And I was like "from the horror movie?"  She nodded and backed out and that was that.  

Strong reaction, that, I thought.  

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Regret Interaction Watch: "Burlesque" (2010)




Watched:  08/27/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Kind of first/ Kind of second
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Steve Antin


I had never seen the beginning or end of Burlesque (2010).  A few years back I had a barber/ stylist who had set up a salon in her house, and instead of the mirror in front of you, she had a television.  And one time I went in and watched a huge chunk of Burlesque, because she'd get distracted by the movie or TV show she was watching, and what should have been a 20 minute haircut (my hair is so boring, I call the style "The Continental"), turned into a nearly 90 minute journey every time.  

Anyway - she was into the movie, and I know lots of people are.  But I come bearing bad news.  Burlesque is a super terrible film that has so much money and star power thrown at it, it looks like it should be good and people kind of accept that maybe it is.  But it isn't.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Swashbuckle Watch: The Mark of Zorro (1940)



Watched:  08/26/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Rouben Mamoulian

I'm fully down with the idea of Zorro.  Back in the 1970's and 80's, the character was still relatively popular as our parents had come up on Zorro movies and the Disney television show.  We got a cartoon and Zorro the Gay Blade.  I did watch some reruns of the Disney show, and in 1990 I watched the first season or two of Zorro on the Family Channel.  And, I quite liked the two Antonio Banderas/ Catherine Zeta Jones films.

Somehow I'd never watched this movie.  Ironically, I once owed dozens of dollars in late fees on the movie when I rented it in college and lost it in my apartment (it somehow got kicked under the bed), but I never got to see it before I found and returned it.  So, here we are.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

70's Thriller Watch: Klute (1971)




Watched:  08/18/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Alan J. Pakula

In, I believe, 1996 the assistant manager at Camelot Records found out I was a film major.  
"Have you seen Klute?" she asked.
"No.  What is it?"
"Jane Fonda.  Donald Sutherland.  She's a hooker and he's a detective."
"Huh.  I'll need to check that out."
She'd check in weekly, really, to see if I'd seen it yet, and to be truthful, every time I went to rent it at I Love Video, it was checked out.  Or lost.  I didn't know, but it wasn't in.  But, yeah.
So, here we are, Jill.  25 years later, I finally watched Klute (1971).

Well, Klute is, actually, a very good movie.  Two thumbs up.  I dug it.  Nice, grimy pre-punk New York, Donald Sutherland nailing quiet intensity that I am sure made someone swoon.  Fonda maybe a little patrician for the role, but that's kind of the point, I think.  

Sutherland does play a private investigator, John Klute, searching for an executive who went missing a long time before.  The clues are scant, except for a letter that matches several that a call girl (Fonda) received, shortly after getting beat up by a john she barely remembers, one of a sea of faces.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Noir Watch: Farewell, My Lovely (1975)




Watched:  08/09/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Dick Richards


I've read the Raymond Chandler novel upon which Farewell, My Lovely (1975) is based a couple of times, and seen the Dick Powell-starring 1944 film adaptation Murder, My Sweet (1944) a handful of times.  I do appreciate the 1970's neo-noir movement and the adaptations or interpretations I've seen, but there's always such a layer of 1960's or 1970's-ness all over the films, you feel like they can't get out of their own way making sure you know "we have updated this for modern times".

This movie, however, is a period piece, adhering as close to the source material as possible, with a definite romanticism for the genre, the book and the movies which it inspired.  While some updating occurs, the politics of the 1970's are only thinly layered on, and the story does take place just prior to WWII (the novel was released in 1940), but with the not insubstantial casting choice of a 58 year old Robert Mitchum.  And, look, you'll never catch me saying a negative thing about Mitchum, but this may be about 15 years too old for the character, no matter who that actor is.  The script changes the novel enough to take Mitchum's age into account here and there, and I absolutely get why the filmmakers were thrilled to get him.  Mitchum would have been ideal casting for a production from '50-'57.  

Monday, August 2, 2021

Doc Watch: Chris Claremont's X-Men (2018)




Watched:  08/02/2021
Format:  YouTube
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Patrick Meaney

Chris Claremont didn't invent the X-Men, but he did turn them from a middling Marvel team book that could have/ should have disappeared into a sprawling mythology with beloved characters that became a multimedia franchise (that Disney is probably losing a lot of sleep over how to properly exploit).  Chris Claremont didn't introduce me to comics, but he did write comics that hit me like lightning, over and over again, and made me a devoted comics reader - a habit that has lasted 35+ years.

While everyone is still young and healthy, a documentary crew put together what is really a remarkable doc explaining what Claremont's X-Men was, why it was so unique in the world of comics, and what eventually broke it.  Including interviews from people who broke it, still totally unaware of what they did 25 years after the fact, still high on their own supply.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

PODCAST: "Meatballs" (1979) - a Signal Watch Canon Episode w/ JAL and Ryan



Watched:  07/28/2021
Format:  Justin's backyard
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Ivan Reitman



JAL and I have some margaritas, watch a movie outside and then record a podcast outside about a movie that takes place outside. It's maybe ground zero for what became a genre unto itself in the 1980's (the camp movie), and a subgenre of the "misfits vs. the preps" - but this one actually has some heart! And some great gags. Join us after a few margaritas and this will all make more sense. FAIR WARNING: this is the most wandering podcast ever recorded here at The Signal Watch.




Music:
Are You Ready For The Summer? - North Star Camp Chorus, Meatballs OST
Meatballs - Rick Dees, Meatballs OST

Signal Watch Canon:

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Thriller Watch: Cause for Alarm! (1951)




Watched:  07/27/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Tay Garnett

Much like Beware, My Lovely, also written by Mel Dinelli, Cause for Alarm! (1951) feels like it could have been a play just as easily as a film.  The action takes place in a very limited amount of time, in very few locations, and resolve not abruptly, but quickly and fairly completely (minus a body or two).  And, a very small cast.  I think there's maybe 8 characters with speaking parts, if that.

I try to keep up with Noir Alley on TCM anyway, but you can do far worse than Loretta Young as your star.  I'll categorize the movie as noir because, hey, Eddie Muller had it on his show, but like Beware, My Lovely, it feels more like a straight thriller than particularly noir, either from an aesthetic or thematic standpoint.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

PODCAST: "Black Widow" (2021) - An Avengers Countdown Episode w. Jamie and Ryan




Watched:  07/09/2021
Format:  Disney+ Premier Access
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Cate Shortland



Hey! We watched the latest installment in the ever-expanding Marvel media monolith! And we had so much to say, we came back and added a few more minutes to the end. Join us as we rush in to talk about our favorite Avenger from behind the iron curtain! It's a family affair as we meet the folks Natasha grew up with, and go home again to meet the world's worst sorority.




Music:
Natasha's Lullaby - Lorne Balfe, Black Widow OST
American Pie - Don McLean


Marvel Movie Discussion