Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Fellini Watch: La Strada (1954)



Watched:  06/16/2024
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  Federico Fellini


Back in the 1990's, I managed to escape film school without much in the way of a "film studies" background.  I was a "production" guy, so I was taking classes that required hauling around equipment and working with fellow students to try and get shorts made - and there weren't credit hours or time for me to also take the classes offered on Fellini and others.*  

At the mercy of the syllabus for the classes I did take, I saw a wide variety of film, but we weren't shown some of the giants, which I now find... odd.  Because in the mid-90's, people still cared about European film and the work of folks like Bergman, Fellini, Godard and others, both inside and outside of academia.  It would be like securing an English degree, but they assume you're reading Shakespeare on your own.

As a result, some of this became so monumental in my head as "challenging viewing", I just never took the Pepsi Challenge.  

But...  then, I realized as I turned 49 -  why not?  So.

Anyway, I am currently on a quest to make the most of my Criterion subscription by checking out a few movies from name directors, especially non-American directors.  You may have noted my recent four movie sprint through some Akira Kurosawa.

Mentioning Fellini on facebook, our own NathanC, who tends to dip into these kinds of film better than many, recommended I start with La Strada (1954).  My only prior exposure to Fellini had been randomly watching Roma back in college.**  So, La Strada it was.  

I have zero complaints about this movie.  I get it.  I know that's not much of a review, but this is what had been advertised to me about Fellini since college, complete with circuses, clowns and sadness.  This is not a complaint.  It's like hearing "well, Dr. Seuss features a lot of Loraxes" and there you are, spotting a Lorax.  

To me, the remarkable thing about the film was that La Strada is the art that a post-WWII Italy was producing.  While certainly not directly commenting on the war, I can only imagine the mood of the post-Mussolini Italians climbing out of the rubble after the Allies bombed and shot their way across the country.  Of *course* the need to tell stories about the people living on the edge of society, the misfits, and making the cruelty casual no matter what love you throw at it came from this era and this place. 

I also understand how folks trying to imitate what is on screen here could go very, very badly indeed.

I was confused and delighted that this movie starred Anthony Quinn and Richard Basehart, both Americans, and my eyes about fell out of my head that Dino De Laurentiis was a producer.  

Anyway, the movie is one of the most written about in cinema, and I don't think anyone will gain much from my scribblings, so I'll cut it short here.  But thanks to Nathan for the suggestion!  I'll be seeking out La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2 and Amarcord soon (with a possible check in with Nights of Cabria).  



*I'll talk about the abortive Bergman class I took, soon
**which I need to rewatch as I think Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson is in it as a young woman after reading her memoir

Neo-Noir-Comedy Watch: Hit Man (2023)




Watched:  06/15/2024
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Director:  Richard Linklater


As a good Austinite, I feel extra pressure to watch Richard Linklater movies, and still miss half of them.  But this one took literally no effort to watch as I have Netflix thanks to my T-Mobile service.  

Reviews were initially pretty good for Hit Man (2023/24?), as near as I can tell.  But I think the wider audience response has been more mixed.  And I get it.  The movie feels like it has a bit of a genre pivot or thematic pivot half-way through, and that's a pretty good way to lose people.  Arguably, it goes from a sort of goofy comedy to a dark-comedy neo-noir.  And that turn in the middle is some YMMV territory.

The basic set up is that we have our public college prof (people keep saying Community College, but he seems more adjunct at a full university.  TERMS MEAN THINGS.), teaching philosophy and psychology.  But - He moonlights for the New Orleans PD making surveillance equipment for catching people who are trying to hire a hit man,  So, when the NOPD gets a tip someone is looking for a contract killer, they send in an undercover cop posing as a hit man.  

One day, the main undercover cop can't do his thing, so they (Retta!) send in the tech, Gary Johnson (Glen Powell).  Turns out he has a real knack for sliding into the role, and as he tries again and again, finds he can be the hit man to meet the profile of the contractee.  

Friday, June 14, 2024

G Watch: Godzilla x Kong - The New Empire (2024)




Watched:  06/14/2024
Format:  4K disc
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Adam Wingard

The thing about this movie is that, from the first minute, it's more or less the chaos I look for in the last fifteen minutes of the best popcorn movies.  

This movie is, technically, really dumb.  The "this story makes no sense" stuff I'll spend a post crying about most of the time isn't just there, it's the whole shooting match.  It's mostly just highly silly and unlikely things happening, scene after scene, and Rebecca Hall in a pixie cut saying out loud what is happening so the kids watching don't get lost.

And I could not be happier with the results.  

If you're looking for a recent Godzilla movie with a moral center and a story about the human condition - I have amazing news for you.  But this is not that movie.

Yes, yes, there's some nice stuff about mothers and daughters thrown in there.  But you're here to see Kong smack some other apes with a smaller ape.  You want to see Godzilla suplex Kong.  You want to see people flying around in a crazy spaceship thing blasting classic rock.  You want to see monsters duking it out in a major metropolitan area.  And mysterious people and their underground culture and maybe magic?  Sure.  Let's just say magic.  And Titan Dentistry (which is what I would call my practice if I became a dentist all-of-a-sudden).  

This movie is colorful, and loud and incredibly goofy, and I am not secretly glad it exists.  After the dour start to the Monsterverse, the direction of these movies has found out how to be something genuinely fun - because they were in no way nailing the "big monsters, big feelings for humans" thing they were trying.  

It will be interesting to see how they try to make this work with Season 2 of Monarch, because half of what Monarch brought to the table, this movie was like "ha ha!  NOPE!" and did its own thing.



Doc Watch: Brats (2024)




Watched:  06/13/2024
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Director:  Andrew McCarthy

I can remember a time in my life when I was weird about the non-John Hughes movies by "The Brat Pack".  I can't remember why.  I do remember people would say "oh, that's a Brat Pack movie" and I'd say "oh, then I won't watch that", but it was so long ago, I don't even remember what the reasoning was.  

When I figured out who was *in* the Brat Pack, I realized I was really not the market for those movies.  I was too young for the stuff produced before 1985 or so, and we didn't have HBO for me to watch those movies.  Add in whatever that vibe was, and I just never circled back to see them.  Anyway - the concept of the Brat Pack is pretty loosey goosey, with no exact filmography or even common understanding of who is in it.  We can debate that in the comments.

This doc is written and directed by former Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy, who is a writer these days, and a pretty good one.  He's digging into the fall-out and feelings of the clutch of actors discussed in a 1985 New York Magazine front page article called "The Brat Pack", written by then-young journalist David Blum.   

The article followed Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson as they went about a night-in-the-life of young Hollywood during a period when there had been a spike in movies starring, and aimed at, younger people.  It is largely considered to be a hit piece, and by 1980's standards, I guess it is.  Now it just reads like a jealous dork seeing how these extraordinarily fortunate young people spend their time.  It lumps in other actors and co-stars not in attendance and slaps the sobriquet upon them.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Godard Watch: Alphaville (1965)





Watched:  06/13/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jean-Luc Godard


My relationship with the films of Jean-Luc Godard is fraught.  On the one hand, I recognize his unique vision and what his films brought to cinema during the height of his powers - and that we're still playing catch up 60 years later.  On the other, I feel like he's a pretentious wanker who can't get out of his own way.  So watching his films can feel like doing homework or eating vegetables.  I know it's a good thing, and from time to time I'm enjoying myself, but other times I'm eating undercooked green beans, and I know green beans can be really good - just not like this.

That said, Alphaville (1965) has a prescience to it that feels deeply immediate here in 2024, as I am sure it did in 1965.   

The film is about an agent, with the unlikely and phenomenal name of "Lemmy Caution" (aka: Ivan Johnson), in a future world not too far from 1965.  He's entering Alphaville from the Outer Countries to find out what their plans are as Alphaville is secretive and weird and maybe wants to destroy everything that is not Alphaville - which is run by a computer known as Alpha 60 under the view of a Dr. Von Braun.

The people of Alphaville live in ways prescribed by the computer, an emotionless, bland existence where everyone gives the same greetings and operates as dictated by the computer, which applies what it considers logic to everyone's movements.  

Our protagonist is there to find out what it plans, and to try to recall one of their own agents who has risen to become the leader of Alphaville, Von Braun.  Along the way he meets Natacha, the daughter of Von Braun, and the two begin a sort of relationship which threatens them both as she learns about concepts forbidden to anyone in Alphaville - love, a conscience, poetry....

The film is a mix of Godard's intense styling, showing the modernist Paris of 1965 as a sci-fi dystopia, and a sort of not-quite Grahame Greene or le Carre spy thriller.  All stuff with which I am onboard.  The clean, computer perfect world of Alphaville now, of course, has the vibe of post-WWII technology and a booming world moving very fast as computers and technologies I think of as modern are coming into being - and the style of architecture that began pre-WWII with Bauhaus and Brutalism is becoming Mid-Century Modern.  The giant office buildings and their tiny squares of light indicating a person insider are appropriately ominous.  

But, holy hannah, watching this movie where the computer has gotten rid of art and poetry and feeling, but under the watchful eye of humans who think *this is great*, it sure hits different in an era where executives think ChatGPT is the cure to all ills, including making our art and poetry for us.  What would have felt like an abstraction 10 years ago now feels like a concrete clear and present danger.  That was not something I expected.

Yeah, I don't know that reciting poetry is going to free the world from the machinations of the evil machine, and some of that feels like some very-1960's thinking, but I get the sentiment.  And our hard-boiled agent getting the girl at the end certainly has hints of Rick Deckard making his way out of Los Angeles.

Anyhoo.  Glad I took the challenge and finally watched it after it's sat on my shelf for a couple of years after an impulse buy.



Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Adventure Horror Watch: The Mummy (1999)





Watched:  06/12/2024
Format:  Peacock
Viewing:  third?
Director:  Stephen Sommers


Okay.  I am aware that this movie is a favorite of many-a-folk.  I think it played really well with people of a certain age as a cable-rewatch or DVD favorite.  I was 24 when this came out, just out of film school, and spent 1997 learning about the Universal Monster films, so I came in with *opinions*.   I saw this once in the theater, saw the sequel somewhere along the line, and skipped all the subsequent Stephen Sommers output until Van HelsingAnd Simon and I discussed that movie at length.    

If you want to go on with your life not listening to someone who is going to not spend a review effusing about this movie, I get it.  Do what you have to do.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Vamp Watch: Slay (2024)




Watched:  06/11/2024
Format:  Tubi
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jem Garrad

It's Pride Month, and so I guess (1) Google TV thought I should watch Slay (2024) and (2) Tubi is apparently releasing original comedy horror movies now.  So, thanks, Google TV and Tubi.

This movie is exactly what you think it will be, and that's not a complaint.  It's a horror-comedy about four drag queens who accidentally book into a biker bar in the middle of nowhere.  Meanwhile, it turns out vampires are real, and they're going to decide this bar, on this night, is where they need to be.

If you're expecting excellent puns, double-entendres and camp, yes, this movie will deliver.  Also a pretty boiler-plate Night of the Living Dead-style set up, yes, that's what you're getting.  But that's...  exactly what this movie wants to be and it's what it delivers on what I'm guessing was not the world's largest budget.

I don't personally follow drag, but my understanding is that Trinity Tuck, Hiedi N. Closet, Crystal Methyd and Cara Melle are stars in the drag world, and I'm not shocked.  They're funny and watchable.  What I didn't expect was the supporting cast of bikers, tough guys, bar flies and locals absolutely understands the assignment and is solid.   

A local pair of LGBQT+ folks toughing it out here in red-neck land has shown up for something they can't believe is coming to their bar, and the aging bartender is maybe more delighted to have them the show there than he wants to let on.   Anyway, these actors had to do a lot and sharing the spotlight with our four leads is tough, but everyone does it.

In the end, *unlike* Night of the Living Dead, the movie is really about overcoming differences and working together to... kill a bunch of vampires.  And accept who each other are.  There's also a nice tag about accepting each other as we change, and that having some decency and love in your heart can save the day.  And along the way, we're going to see some blood and use pool cues to dispatch the undead.

I would love to see what this group and Jem Garrad could have done with $10-20 million more than what hey had.  I bet it would be great.  For now, this one is a Tubi original (who knew?) and free to watch with a few ads.

So, happy Pride, y'all.  

Monday, June 10, 2024

Disney Watch: Swiss Family Robinson (1960)




Watched:  06/10/2024
Format:  Disney BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Ken Annakin

A long time ago now, Stuart gifted me a BluRay of Swiss Family Robinson (1960), a kind-of-hard-to-secure item.  I'd expressed to him my fondness for the live-action Disney films that more or less informed a lot of the spirit of Disney in a certain era, from this film to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to Treasure Island to Johnny Tremain and more.

Most of these I saw on The Wonderful World of Disney and a collection of other places.  

I'm not at all surprised I took a shine to this movie as a kid.  It had too many pets (including two Great Danes), it's shot in a beautiful location (Tobago), has a lot of zoo animals from tigers to elephants to zebras, a set that's so cool, they recreated it as a great attraction at Disney World and Disneyland, which was a must-do for me as a kid (and adult, when it was turned into Tarzan's house or some nonsense).  

But the basic set-up is that a Swiss family is moving to New Guinea - somewhat fleeing Napolean and what's happening in Europe - and wind up shipwrecked somewhere in the "East Indies" which I put in quotes not because it's not real, but that's a pretty big area to guess about.  

There's pirates about, tigers in the woods, etc...   The two elder boys seek to circumnavigate the island when they stumble upon a Captain and his cabin boy, held by pirates.  Of course the cabin boy is a girl (it is so obviously a girl), which they discover after liberating her.  And with no other women or girls on the island who aren't their mother, they make their way home, while tensions mount.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Mars Watch (Revisited): John Carter (2012)



Watched:  06/08/2024
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  I've lost track.  5th?
Director:  Andrew Stanton
Selection:  Joint household

You can see prior posts on John Carter books and movies here.


Back in 2012 when this movie came out, I'd read the novel A Princess of Mars at least twice.  It's a breezy, fun read, the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars/ Barsoom novels.  If you can get past some very not-21st Century politics and concepts, they're an interesting read, and I recommend.

Those books were almost 100 years old when the movie was released, so, suffice to say, folks have enjoyed them for a while.  And there's something to be said for any novels that last a century, and double that appreciation when it comes to any genre material that manages to last beyond a few decades.  There's something there.   So it came as a bit of a surprise to me at the time that this movie got the critical lambasting it received, currently residing at a 51 on Metacritic.   And most of the folks who saw it at the time told me "oh, I hated that."  

Look, your faithful blogger has just enough ego to assume it's everyone else who is wrong sometimes, but this was a case where I said "ah, well, it's working for me.  I dunno." and moved on with my life.

But, to be truthful, it's been quite some time since I re-watched this movie or read that first novel, and with some separation, I now more or less get why this movie got the reaction it did.  And TheWrap put out a fascinating history of the film, that I consider good reading.    

To be blunt, I was familiar enough with the book that the movie was just seeing portions of the book come to life, and knowing there were many more books, I thought they were just moving things forward in order to make a more seamless narrative.  

Nope.

There's essentially two large problems with the movie in my mind at this point -

Saturday, June 8, 2024

00's Watch: National Treasure (2004)





Watched:  06/07/2024
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jon Turteltaub

This is one of those movies everyone is shocked to find out I have not seen.  Which, you know, when that happens, y'all can all settle down.  Of all the movies in the world, I only watch a small portion, and this one had no apes, sharks or robots.

2004 is a time period I do remember, and I remember seeing the trailer for this and thinking "this is going to be a Dan Brown/ Indiana Jones knock-off, and it's going to just get a bunch of shit wrong."

And, friends, call me The Oracle, because I was surely correct, lo, those two decades past.

What I failed to predict was that this movie would be extremely boring, have plot holes you could lose a jumbo jet through, and be the last gasp of 90's-style gender politics in an adventure film.

Brought to us by the director of 3 Ninjas and The Meg, National Treasure (2004) is one of those things that could have flopped, but - instead - people decided it was great.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Doc Watch: Jim Henson - Idea Man (2024)





Watched:  06/05/2024
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Ron Howard
Selection:  Jamie


I watched The Muppet Show as a kid, knowing who maybe a 1/5th of the guests were.  I saw The Muppet Movie, Great Muppet Caper, Muppets Take ManhattanDark Crystal and Labyrinth in the theater.  I even remember as a kid wondering how Jim Henson and Frank Oz found the time - "how do they find time to do these things?"   Later, I watched The Storyteller and Jim Henson Hour - which were both given terrible timeslots (Fridays!), if memory serves.

And then one morning I woke up and someone in my house told me Jim Henson was dead.  It's one of my first moments of being shocked by a celebrity death.  It's not wrong to think of Henson in the same mold as Walt Disney, and I understand how the world reeled from his abrupt departure.  

The Henson family has never been terribly secretive, and I've read articles over the years, seen exhibits at the Smithsonian, etc...  so I'd pieced together a rough notion of Henson's life, but it really started with a puppet on one hand.  

It turns out Ron Howard, who directed this film, has a good sense for documentary.  If the movie is a bit of pro-Henson propaganda, there's literally nothing wrong with that.  If Jim Henson had a human side which was imperfect, fine.  The movie does try to give us an idea of some of his blindspots and foibles, courtesy his family and co-workers.  But this film is about how he got to where he was, what his work was like - and how it was done.  And, of course, the impact, which is hard to measure.

With so much time since Henson's death, which was in May of 1990, it's amazing to see so many of his collaborators able to come speak about him, from Muppet costumers to Jennifer Connolly.  And to be taken on the journey from Missouri to DC to London, via clips and video of various efforts.  

I'm not sure there's a ton here for the person who is deeply into The Muppets and appreciates them on a much deeper level than I do, but it's a terrific document.  And for folks who only have heard the name Henson, and did not know him as a friendly face on talk shows or media presence that was generally well-liked across the board - this is a great way to know the man.  And, you'll get a great experience seeing Henson's material all in one place, from his first work on DC to his funeral, which he choreographed.

It's a wonder seeing the Henson kids, now all older than their dad when he passed.  And to hear them speak about him lovingly, but honestly - and I think it's in this realm that I felt Howard's hand.  He knows how to craft the image on a genuine hero.

The documentary is currently available on Disney+.


 

Angry Animal Watch: Alligator (1980)




Watched:  06/06/2024
Format:  Peacock
Viewing:  First
Director:  Lewis Teague

I very much remember, sometime in elementary school, a week or so when Alligator (1980) was going to show as a movie on TV.  Possibly even just late after I was going to bed.  But the commercials looked terrifying, and I found out about the urban myth of the sewer alligator.  

Anyway, somehow, I'd never seen this one.  Which is odd.  Y'all know alligators eating people is a favorite theme around here.  And this is maybe one of the first all-alligators/ all-human buffet movies.  

If you're me, you'll also be delighted to learn John Sayles wrote this.  Like, John Sayles...   you mad genius.  (I currently have a shiny new copy of Lone Star sitting on my table waiting to be watched.)

Director Lewis Teague has a checkered history of films, but this is from one of his better periods, and launched him from TV to features for a bit, where he'd go on to do Cujo and other pics before returning to TV and TV movies.

This movie *is* a horror film, but it also knows: this is insane, let's treat it that way.  It occasionally delves into comedy and camp, and even moments of "terror" are pretty wacky (thinking of our scaly pal bursting out of the sewer into the game of stickball).  The only scare I got out of the film was when Forester and his partner go into the sewers and a flashlight falls briefly on the giant croc in what was a shadow.  Like - man, that worked.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Angry Animal Watch: Under Paris (2024)




Watched:  06/05/2024
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Director:  Xavier Gens

It is summer, and, thusly, it is time for me to watch movies about animals attacking/ eating people.

As of last night, I knew what my first two films would be, and who am I to say *no* to a movie about sharks in the Seine?  Yes, this is a French shark movie, and, ooo la la..! vive la difference!

Under Paris (2024) seems to be a not-good movie for most of its 1:45 or so runtime.  There's a pretty great scene around the 56 minute mark, and then it slows down again.  And then the ending is absolutely baller, and that's where the budget went.  

Here's the thing: the ending honestly surprised me - in a good way.  If you can hang in there, I think there's an interesting movie here, but it's not the one you're watching for the first 85 minutes or so.  

The basic deal is an intensely tropey set-up if you've ever seen a monster movie or shark movie.  

A scientific expedition at the Pacific Garbage Patch which is looking for a particular shark goes sideways when it turns out there are many sharks, and they are hangry.  Sophia, our lead, is one of two survivors, and, gang, it will surprise you to find out she is haunted by what happened.

Noir Watch?: Bad For Each Other (1953)




Watched:  06/05/2024
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Director:  Irving Rapper

Well, this was on Noir Alley, so I gave it a spin.

It was the definition of "fine".  I don't really have much to say about it.  

A young Charlton Heston plays a doctor on leave at the end of the Korean War (after having served in WWII and Korea).  He comes back to his hometown, one of the coal mines outside of Pittsburgh.  

He meets Lizbeth Scott, who wants to be on Chuck, and he reciprocates after trying to resist her charms and offer of entree to cafe society.  

He soon finds himself just treating rich old ladies and young ladies who hope he'll make a move.  

Eventually his hot nurse convinces him he's not doing medicine, and then he has to help miners out, and the movie ends with him bailing on Lizbeth Scott and opening a practice in Coalville.  The End.

I mean, it *is* interesting to see a movie about a doctor deciding if he wants to live large while selling pills to rich people, or doing real medicine for people who need it.  And lord knows Heston could throw himself bodily into such a role.  

I'm not a huge Lizbeth Scott fan.  She's good, but there's a sort of detachment to how she plays things that makes it hard for me to click with what she's doing.  She's as good as ever here, but she and Heston just lack chemistry.  I believed his relationship more in The Omega Man.  

The best scene in the thing comes toward the end when Heston has to help the miners.  It's genuinely good stuff.  Well shot, etc...

Were Heston and Scott bad for each other?  Yes.  The movie told us that they would be, and, indeed, they were.  I do like her character's blunt honesty and, man, she got some nice gowns in this.

Muller programmed this, I think, to talk about writer Horace McCoy, who also wrote They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, which is the goddamn most depressing way you can read a fictional book in, like, four hours.  (It's good, but.)

Is this movie noir?  I mean, no... I don't think so?  It just feels like a melodrama.  And yet, it was on Noir Alley.  So I'll give it the tag and shrug and move on.


Monday, June 3, 2024

Superhero Fatigue Watch: Madame Web (2024)



Watched:  06/03/2024
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Director:  SJ Clarkson

The best part of Madame Web (2024) is that Dakota Johnson never looks like she wants to be here, either.

Let me start with:  this movie was insanely hard to finish.  It took me two days and hours and hours, during which I paused the movie, picked up my phone and then had to rewind the movie because I realized I'd stopped watching it in favor of seeing what was up on social media, etc...  It is boring and tedious and unlikable on almost every level.  I wouldn't even do it as a fun bad-movie watch party, because it's over-arching feature is that it's dull af.

I almost gave up, but, no, pals, your faithful blogger perseveres.

TL;DR: Six Months Later - DC Movies are Dead (Long Live DC Comics and Movies)




Friends.  Nerds.  Blogger-folk.  Lend me your eyeballs.

I come here to bury the DCEU, not to praise it.  

I love DC Comics.  I have a collection of around 5500 DC Comics - and that's what remains after multiple cullings of the collection over the years, selling off dozens of long boxes and whole runs of JLA, The Flash and Green Lantern.  I have a room in my house largely dedicated to Superman and Wonder Woman, featuring knick-knacks, statues and toys, where I keep those comic books.  I have walls of graphic novels, and DC reference books.  My dog wears a Superman collar sometimes (he's currently wearing a Chicago Cubs collar).  I have attended the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois.  If there is a DC based TV series, serial, movie, cartoon, etc...  there's a good probability I've seen it or have a functioning awareness of it (not everything is for me and I've passed on a lot of animated features the past decade).  

All this is to say, when I discuss DC's movie efforts, it's from a place of love of the source material, of other DC media, and that I'm not coming in as a film-guy who never lifted a comic.  

None of this is to require anyone else to have this background, and you're entitled to your opinion.  But fan entitlement is a thing to behold, and so I feel some credentials are in order.   To conclude a clunky preamble, I say everything I say from a place of genuine love for the characters and their universe.

Thus, let it be known that the DC Comics movie experiment, that began in 2011 and which wrapped-up a decade later with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom at the end of 2023, is done.

And that is to say, I did not love what DC did with its movies, starting with Man of Steel in 2013.   

Friday, May 31, 2024

Disney Watch: Zootopia (2016)




Watched:  05/31/2024
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  2.5th
Director:  Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Selection:  Joint

Zootopia (2016) is one of the movies I really wish I hadn't missed in the theater.  Yes, yes, the story is actually great as both cop story and metaphors we could learn a lesson from.  But, visually, it's mind-boggling.  And hilarious.  

No, it doesn't have the completely insane experimentation and visual dynamics of the Spider-Verse movies, but what does?  What it does have are a million ideas and gags, a lot of very clever stuff relating to the animals of varying species and sizes.  It's got crazy good design that feels absolutely coherent despite numerous changes of scenery and "worlds".  And, I dig the character design like crazy.  Every single character is a great example of how you take an expressive character doodle from page to 3D.  

I'm sure Michero could weigh in more on what this movie does well visually (the lighting in the jungle sequence is tricky and great, imho), but - if nothing else - pause the movie and look at the backgrounds, look at the DVD covers, have a good laugh at the Disney film in-jokes (I just noticed the weasel is named Duke Weaselton, and that is gold).  

But, yeah, the story has some meat on it.  Alone, Judy's story of "believe in yourself and you can do anything" is *fine*.  I'm not going to tell people, especially kids, that it's not a good 'un.  But Nick's story and how it reflects on the sins of Zootropolis - and what it all says about how we try to live together in urban environments, is really great.  As is the "othering" to claim power that was way, waaaaaay too prescient in 2016 that I think it lands better in 2024 than it did then.

Anyhoo... I also just like the two leads.  They're well-conceived.  I dig that Judy is the eager do-gooder, but still feels like she's that way because she believes in the dream of Zootropolis.  Nick Wilde is fun as the hustler, but they know where to set the dials so he doesn't seem like a cliche - and, of course, has no illusions about Zootropolis.  They're not as dewy eyed as the princesses.  Kids aren't likely to dress up as Nick and Judy, but I think they play as well as any buddy-cop, post-48 Hours duo is like to.  

The writing is solid, and it's dropping some funny stuff beyond the visuals, without relying on so much of what's become the go-to of falls and farts in kid's cartoons.  I will forever enjoy the wee Godfather reference and his bee-hived daughter.  And, man, do they commit to the bit with Flash and the DMV workers.  That's next level.

It just seems like this movie was a hit at the time, but didn't really stick in the US (evidence tells me Asia embraced it more than we did).  It did a billion with 65% of that overseas.  And Shanghai just got Zootopia land, which I think people here would find odd.  

If nothing else, it's got Shakira playing a Gazelle, and that's good movie.


Thursday, May 30, 2024

End of DCEU Watch: Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023)



Watched: 05/30/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  First
Director:  James Wan

So, this poor movie had to come out even knowing that the DCEU was dead, killed by the investment opportunity that was Black Adam (considered a failure at $340+ million).  This movie would go on to make $434 million over a year later, and after it was announced DC was ending this particular continuity and starting over.

Meanwhile, our co-star of the first film had a very public divorce trial in which everyone looked *terrible*.  

I didn't really like the first Aquaman, so I was going to just wait for Max for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023), which I did.  But I thought I'd also treat you to my play-by-play as I watched the movie, as there's nothing to be gained by actually trying to discuss this as a movie.

Here we go:

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Kurosawa Watch: The Seven Samurai (1954)



Watched:  05/28/2024
Format:  Criterion
Viewing:  First
Director:  Akira Kurosawa


So.  A little housekeeping.

This is our 100th post of 2024 under the Movies 2024 tab.  Good for us.  I'm glad we picked a good one for this milestone.  

Fun fact:  this movie came out in 1954, the same year Toho Studios also released Gojira.  Pretty damn big year for Toho.  But I also am curious how the years since the war influenced this movie as much as it influenced Gojira.

Also:  I've walked around since about 1995 with the belief that I'd previously seen The Seven Samurai (1954).  I think I've even marked it on "what movies have you seen?" quizzes as one I'd watched.  I basically knew what it was about, how it ended in broad strokes.  But began to suspect something was up when I saw the runtime on the movie and said "I don't remember it being this long..."

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Sci-Fi Shrug Watch: Atlas (2024)




Watched:  05/28/2024
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Director:  Who knows?  I bet he's named "Brad".  That seems like the name of a schmo who would make this


When I saw the trailer for Atlas (2024), I sent it to Jamie with the comment "this looks like they actually made a movie that would have been discussed in cut scenes on 30 Rock.".  Like, Jenna would have missed out on being in the AI robot movie because JLo stole the part from her, and she really wanted to be in the movie to meet Simu Liu (who would cameo).

Right now, this movie is at a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic has it at a 38.  So it's not wildly critically adored.  But someone liked it.  

I watched this movie for a few reasons.

  • I don't watch many straight-to-Netflix movies and, given the algorithmically driven nature of their business, I was curious what a Netflix movie looks like in 2024.  
  • I like stories about robots and AI.  Probably because I came up on Asimov and Blade Runner, but I have genuine concerns about how we'll deploy robots when and if artificial intelligence makes them useful.
  • I like Simu Liu and think Hollywood has sidelined him in ways I don't understand.  He's a charismatic, handsome guy who works as a lead in action, comedy and drama.*  And I want the algorithm to point producers to Simu Liu as a reason I will watch a movie.  And Sterling K Brown.  That dude is great.
  • I am not angry about a movie's runtime spent with JLo.  There are worse fates in this world.