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.
Thursday, September 12, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
There are a whole bunch of movies that are not the same movie that I thought were the same movie that came out between 1980 and 1987, that all have sort of meaningless names, and I thought were the same movie. Brainstorm (1983) is one of these movies.
The thing is, I'm not even sure what is what, but these movies all had pictures of people wearing headgear or having lasers pointed at their brains and often had to do with virtual realities, walking around in people's dreams, stuff like that. I guess. All I know is that, from this pile, I had never seen Brainstorm despite very much remembering the box collecting dust at Video Station and Video III when I was a kid.
Saturday, September 7, 2019
I have to say - the marketing team absolutely dropped the ball advertising Stardust (2007). I recall hearing the movie was coming, based on Gaiman that I hadn't yet read, saw the trailer and decided: eh, I'm good.
My memory of the trailer was that it looked like a doofy guy trying to woo Claire Danes in the basket of a hot air balloon or some such. I wouldn't say I took a hard pass, but I didn't see it til 2019, so...
Very, very Neil Gaiman in character and ideas, the movie has the feel of a familiar fairy tale or legend, but spun from pieces of zeitgeisty-concepts and all new notions. Castles, kings, pirates, magic, rights of ascension... There's the matter-of-factness of a 19th Century story for children in the telling, which uses that semi-lecturey tone to insist "of course there's a fairy-tale land with witches. Everyone knows this." And whether we respond to this as adults out of nostalgia or training, I can't say - but it's a great way to frame a story.
|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: TCM on DVR
This is, apparently, the second version of the same story. Just this weekend Jamie and I were discussing reboots and relaunches, and I made some noise about "well, they've always remade popular stuff" and this is a pretty good example. The first version of The Dawn Patrol from 1930, I have not seen. This remake comes from just eight years later with a shift in casting as Elynn, Niven and Rathbone step in front of the lens.
The Dawn Patrol has curious timing - released in 1938 as the US was watching Germany roll over Europe. It's an anti-war film, and I found the Wikipedia entry on the film a bit odd, shrugging it's shoulders and saying they were romanticizing combat aviation because of high numbers of deaths, etc... that were part of the genre but gave it kudos for showing the scars of the commanders sending out the untrained pilots.
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
I had no idea what this movie was about prior to giving it a watch, so real quick:
Directed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock, this is based on a true story (apparently?) of a musician who goes to his insurance company to see if he can take out on a loan his wife's life insurance for some dental work, only to be identified by the clerks as the man who committed two robberies of the company in the prior 9 months or so. The police pick him up, assuring him that if he didn't do it, there's nothing to worry about, but in a line-up, he's identified by multiple witnesses (the robber also hit a few stores) and even his handwriting sample seems to match.
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.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
People take a lot of liberties when adapting Raymond Chandler novels to screen. It's not a huge surprise. After all, Chandler's books are winding, complicated, and don't exactly make it easy to translate Marlowe's inner-monologue or exposition in a way that's easy to cram into 90 - 120 minutes and keep the audience with you. To this day, people complain The Big Sleep is "too complicated".
It's been a while since I read The Little Sister, I think the fifth Marlowe novel and the work upon which the studio based Marlowe (1969). Between reading several Chandler novels in a row at that time and years inbetween, not every detail of the plot had stuck with me, but impressions of various characters remained, and as the movie unspooled, it did provide me with a roadmap and certain expectations for the film that gave me a leg up vis-a-vis following the plot and keeping up. A glance at some contemporary reviews suggest that even Ebert and Siskel found it a bit muddled.
Still, the story sticks surprisingly close to the novel, updating some factors for 1969 that would have looked very different in the original setting of 1949. And, I'll argue, while people feel like they've got a grip on Chandler by way of reputation, in practice his novels tend to feel like a morass of detail until the denouement. That's part of the fun (and Hammett did same in books like The Thin Man).
Format: Alamo S. Lamar
Say what you will about Austin, but I just got home from a Tuesday 9:30 PM showing of a 1933 horror movie almost no one has seen who is currently alive, and the place was hopping. I know this is true in other cities, but this one is mine.
For whatever reason I enjoy what the studios were up to with horror in the pre-Atomic Age films, a mix of the occult, mythical beasts, ghost stories and sometimes just creepy old houses with a Boris Karloff in them. Supernatural (1933) would have come out on the heels of Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) in the era where not just Universal, but other studios, were getting in on the horror genre and the Hayes office wasn't yet really enforcing any codes.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Format: Netflix MST3K - The Gauntlet
Sometimes movie stars just want to take a vacation and maybe shoot a movie while they're there. You see it all the time in these peculiar movies that don't look very good but star people who actually cost some money - and the movie is in, say, Hawaii. They're called "postcard movies", and the deal is usually that the star maybe asks for less because they're being put up in a really nice hotel in Maui for two months to make some romcom or whatever. Their family comes out and they go boogie-boarding on their days off.
I kind of suspect something similar was afoot in 1979 when Killer Fish went into production. The movie doesn't have the world's biggest stars, but in '79 Lee Majors was a pretty big deal and Karen Black was still bankable. I imagine selling the movie as "come down to Rio de Janeiro for a couple months" was a pretty good deal. I'd also mention, this movie was part of the short-lived Fawcett-Majors Productions, a go at producing from when Lee Majors and Farah Fawcett were Hollywood's foremost couple. And, no, you've never heard of this movie or the other films that they produced.
Monday, August 12, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR from a looooong time ago
Well. Between this and The Lost Weekend, I picked quite the double-bill for the weekend.
I mean, I knew. I'd rented this movie twice in college but when I'd think about what it was about, I'd never hit "play" on the ol' VCR. And I'd recorded it a half-dozen times on the DVR and never watched it. But this time I did.
The Ox-Bow Incident (1942) is about a small town in the old west who finds out that a local rancher has been killed, and so they pull together a posse to go track down the killers. It's a mish-mash of local color and yahoos, rationalizing why they don't need to follow the rules, exactly, and supported by the ineptitude and slack nature of some local authority.
Sunday, August 11, 2019
The Lost Weekend (1945) is one of those movies that you always know you should watch, but when you know what it's about, it's sort of hard to get fired up to put on. But with Billy Wilder behind the camera and with a "co-written by" credit, it did nudge me toward "okay...", and knowing it featured Ray Milland, whom I like well enough, and Howard Da Silva, whom I really like, it put it in the "yeah, I need to see that" direction.
But in the past month two things happened. (1) I read that Wilder wrote the movie after working with Raymond Chandler to write Double Indemnity. Chandler certainly suffered from alcohol addiction and, as it will, the addiction impacted his professional and personal life. I'm unclear on whether Chandler was dry during Double Indemnity, but I'm also sure working with Wilder would drive him to drink. While the two never got along, it's noteworthy that whatever he saw and respected in Chandler was mixed up with how he saw his alcoholism. (2) Our own JimD referenced the movie and asked me when the last time was that I'd seen it, which was "never". Mid-tweet response I decided to watch the movie this weekend.
Friday, August 9, 2019
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Watched: Crawl 07/31/2019, Rogue 08/06/2019
Format: AMC Barton Creek and DVD
Viewing: First for both
Decade: 2010's/ 2000's
SimonUK and Ryan take a bite out of two movies that burst from the depths to surprise us. We compare and contrast a pair of films that rolled us over and made us take notice, but definitely felt we could sink our teeth into.
Crocodile Rock - Elton John, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
See You Later, Alligator - Bill Haley and the Comets
Playlist - SimonUK Cinema Series:
Monday, August 5, 2019
|this quote is exactly what Jamie said to me when we met|
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
There's a surprising number of movies about or including the work of "trucking" in this category we call "noir". I suppose it makes sense given the world of people operating mostly alone, moving from place to place by day and night. Add in the shadiness of transportation companies and both the folks sending and receiving goods, and it's fertile soil for drama. And it's not like people like myself who've never ridden in a truck are oblivious to truckstop shenanigans.
But who would have thought moving produce would lead to excellent noir drama? But, at it's core, Thieves' Highway (1949), which is 100% about moving produce, contains a lot of what I think of when I ponder what comprises the "noir movement". Characters in over their head pursuing goals due to hubris or lust (this one has both), a disaffection with the status quo and everyman status, a woman on the make pulling the wool over some schmuck's eyes... it's all there. Plus a heavy played by Lee J. Cobb and a morally gray protagonist played by Richard Conte.
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.
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
So.... I don't know that I'd want to actually recommend The Tattooed Stranger (1950) to anyone. It's far more of a curiosity of production than it is a watchable or good movie, and in the right, riff-able hands, could be wildly entertaining. Pre-film, Muller explained that it had been a producer of RKO's Pathe office, who wanted to try their hand at cheap narrative films, exploiting their guerrilla film making know-how from decades of documentary films and using the wealth of actors in NYC.
Thursday, July 11, 2019
|absolutely no one swings into action on top of a couple having a cuddle in the course of this movie|
Format: Alamo South Lamar
Well, somehow Wednesday became my Robert Ryan double-bill day. SimonUK and I headed over to the local cinema to take in this novelty 1953 film. Ostensibly noir, this movie is both in technicolor (not a disqualifier) and in 3D (a curiosity for noir, to say the least). It also takes place in the desert and is 65% a tale of survival in extreme conditions, and - while I get why it gets lumped in with noir, I'm a bit on the fence.
If the movie borrows from noir, it's trying to borrow from the best - in some ways asking "yes, but what if the husband in Double Indemnity had lived?" and pairing it with a survival tale in which the husband is not on an urban railroad track but thrown from a horse in the Mojave Desert.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
If I were to buy this movie on Bluray (and it's Lupino, so don't count me out), I would wish it had Eddie Muller's conversations which bookended the showing on Noir Alley. Muller says he's doing "barroom, not classroom", but I'll argue that by showing a wide variety of films on Noir Alley and talking about why we should pay attention, discussing what happened during production, etc... and not just lauding whatever it is we're about to see, Noir Alley is one of the best movie-watching experiences and educations you can hope for. And, yeah, he makes it all as casual as a talk over cocktails.
On Dangerous Ground (1951) is directed by Nicholas Ray and stars two of my favorite denizens of Noir Alley, Ida Lupino* and Robert Ryan (here wearing a coat and hat and a tough cops face in a way I wish with all my heart I could pull off). I'd meant to watch it some time ago, and I can't recall why it fell off the list - but now was the time! Muller certainly discussed details of the film and production, but his real focus was on the Bernard Herrmann score. And it is very, very much a Bernard Herrmann score, which is almost off to see against an RKO b&w cop picture.
Saturday, July 6, 2019
First - this poster is doing Ann Sheridan no favors. She's a gorgeous woman, and here she looks like a wax museum figurine that's been set too close to a lamp. Second - like many-a-noir, this title isn't actually accurate. The movie is about a woman seeking out her husband, who is a dude "on the run". Unless this is when I find out "on the run" in this era meant "she's just moving about quickly", which I don't think it did.
Sunday, June 30, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
Everyone but me has seen this movie, but we were staying in on a Saturday and it seemed like a good option for a bit of a light movie and to check off a viewing box.
Somehow, until about two years ago, it had escaped my notice that Sabrina (1954) was actually a Billy Wilder film, and so I wanted to give it a real shot, and I'm glad I did - it did surpass whatever bar I'd set for the movie. The movie isn't exactly what I expected, which was to see two brothers in escalating conflict, trying to win over Audrey Hepburn. You can read that as: I didn't want to watch two middle-aged guys duking it out over an ingenue for 2 hours - but it's not really that.