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

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




Sunday, July 25, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Highlander (1986)




Watched:  07/23/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director: Russell Mulcahy


I hadn't watched The Highlander (1986) in years.  It was a movie I saw on VHS as a kid, loved it, and include it's mythology and catch-phrases as part of my Gen-X slang.  I mean, it did give us the phrase "there can be only one", which I think has leaked out into the popular consciousness, even if lots of folks don't know where the phrase came from.

But like The Beastmaster, The Highlander was part of the lingua franca of geek culture for Gen-X nerds.  It had a not-particularly charismatic lead, Connery chewing schenery, a woman throwing herself at the lead for absolutely no reason (and against all logic), swords, trenchcoats, a crazy-ass villain in the form of Clancy Brown as a mad Cossack, and a soundtrack by mid-80's Queen.

And sparks.  So many sparks.

Going in, I knew the movie wouldn't be what I remembered when I was 12, even if the movie was exactly what I remembered from when I was 12.  It's.... fine.  A little slim in the character department in favor of the plot and exposition departments.  And it's also a funny movie because it does feel like it should be the first installment in a series until you think about the plot and realize "nope, this is it."  Not that movie didn't generate three sequels and a TV show.  

I will never understand the idea behind casting Christopher Lambert as a Scotsman.  I will never understand casting Sean Connery as an Egyptian Spaniard.  And yet, I support both.  It's absurd.  And somehow just part of the fabric of the movie.  

I do like how the movie merges present with flashbacks to tell the story - this was not particularly common to sci-fi or fantasy at the time, and trying to imagine someone explaining all of this in realtime in the present would have been deadly.  Clancy Brown makes a hell of an impression as a badguy who has flipped his lid - maybe not new to cop thrillers by 1986, but new to fantasy.  And the bit with the girl MacCloud saved during WWII who is still with him is a brilliant little touch, even if she should have been introduced earlier and their relationship clarified.  I mean, there's a whole movie in that somewhere.

But it's also not something I think anyone should take particularly seriously.  Connery sets the right tone - this is crazy, and we should enjoy it.  The ending is telegraphed nonsense, but still fun.  

Now we'd be treated to someone's plans for a franchise, with massive world building and a wide array of characters.  Here, we get... four Immortals in the modern era?  And no women at that?  (So 1980's).  So I do appreciate that it's both semi-thoughtful, but smart enough to just tell the story and get out.  

Anyway. Highlander.  


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Friday Watch Party: Highlander - Friday night!




There can be only one movie where a Frenchman plays a Scotsman and a Scotsman plays a Spaniard and an American plays a Cossack.  And no one cares!

It's the 1980's fantasy favorite all the nerds loved back in the 1990's til the sequel came out and made it all seem ridiculous.  But the original is pretty good, has three great leads and music by Queen.  So...

Don't lose your head!  We're doing it 

Day:  Friday 07/23
Time:  9:00 Central/ 7:00 Pacific




Art House Watch: My Dinner With Andre (1981)




Watched:  07/22/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Louis Malle

I would guess more Gen-X'ers know My Dinner With Andre (1981) by reputation than have actually seen the film, by a country mile.  Held up as the epitome of intellectualism in film by the time I hit film school in the mid-90's, I remember an art teacher in fifth grade (circa 1985) telling us about the movie, the same guy who also showed us Talking Heads videos, including what I think was Stop Making Sense.*  

As much of a reputation as the movie earned, it also became a sort of cultural shibboleth and punchline.   In the era of "Woody Allen is an intellectual genius" and last days of New York as the cultural epicenter for America (arguably shifting to LA by the late 1980's), the idea that a film would take on such heady topics as the nature of performance and theater, and, in fact, consciousness with a bent that's new-agey post-hippie "awareness" dressed up in tweed and fine dining was like pushing every button for the culture, especially in outposts outside of New York that longed to see themselves embroiled in such conversations.  Of course it played well to both the audience it portrayed and the audience of art-majors and film critics across the country.  That's not a dig - I'm just not surprised.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Murder Watch: The Last of Sheila (1973)




Watched:  07/20/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Herbert Ross

What a weird combo of talent on this film.

I recorded this on my DVR when Rian Johnson indicated it had helped inspire the sequel to Knives Out, recently filming in the French Riviera, where this film, The Last of Sheila (1973), takes place.  

I did not know that it was written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins - two guys not known for Hollywood movie scripts.  Then, it was directed by Herbert Ross, who you may know as the director of The Secret of My Success or Footloose.  The cast is small, but as in Agatha Christie style, everyone has to carry their weight.  

But what a cast:  James Coburn as a movie producer, Dyan Cannon as a talent agent, James Mason as a director past his prime, Raquel Welch as a starlet with a past, Ian McShane as her iffy boyfriend, Richard Benjamin as a screenwriter seeing his career fail, and Joan Hackett as his heiress wife.

The titular Sheila dies in the opening scene, the victim of a hit-and-run as she drunkenly leaves a party to walk her Bel-Air neighborhood.  A year later, Coburn invites a handful of the attendees to his yacht in the South of France for a week of games, one of which is a game of his own making.

I won't say anything else.  No spoilers.  But the movie is a murder mystery with more twists than an industrial drill.

Go check it out sometime.  



Disney Watch: Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)




Watched:  07/18/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  
Don Hall
Carlos López Estrada
Paul Briggs
John Ripa

I had very much wanted to see Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) in the theater.  Disney and Pixar are creating big-screen-worthy films left and right, and I already have two Pixar films under my belt since December that I will see if they're re-released post-COVID.

For some time, Disney has been making Princess movies from all over the planet, from Frozen, to Moana, to Tangled and now Raya and the Last Dragon.  I admit to some confusion in this film because the film skips around a wide swatch of Southeast Asia and the various islands and archipelagos, but it's all Disney Fantasy Land, so I think marrying yourself to any particular culture here is as useless as figuring out which Scandinavian country where Frozen takes place.  But, nonetheless, you may find yourself saying "is this Vietnam, or Thailand, or...?"

Anyway, I was surprised in a very good way that RatLD turned out to be an action/adventure picture - really the first in the modern Disney era.  Expect no song and dance sequences - this is a straight adventure where the Maguffin is "friendship".  Because Disney.  But, yeah, Disney has definitely done non-musical movies in recent years with the Wreck-It-Ralph movies, Zootopia and Big Hero 6, but if you see "princess" and think "what is her 'I Want' song?", you will be disappointed.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Totter Watch: Alias Nick Beal (1949)




Watched:  07/18/2021
Format:  Kino Lorber BluRay
Viewing:  Second (and kinda third)
Decade:  1940's
Director:  John Farrow

I saw this one a few years back at the Austin Noir City fest hosted by Eddie Muller, but haven't seen it since.  It's a prime example of a good movie to sit down and say "is this noir?", because I don't know.  It sure as hell feels like noir, minus the supernatural elements.  

This time I was able to watch the film and then immediately come back (when Jamie had gone off to bed) and watch the film with commentary by Eddie Muller.  It's worth noting - because, as he states, it's been years since he did a commentary track, but he did this one because he likes the movie that much.   

The film itself is a very 20th-Century flavoring of how a good man with the best of intentions can compromise his way right into corruption when it comes to elected office - with an extra shove in the wrong direction from a sharp-dressed demon.  It doesn't hurt to understand a bit about 19th and 20th Century political machines, but the film is mostly concerned with literal forces for good and evil over a man's soul (the evil being Nick Beal), tempting the pious Joseph Foster with the ability to do good at scale, if he just compromises endlessly along the way.  And, of course, turn his eye from his matronly wife (his voice of piety) to Audrey Totter.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Neo-Noir Mitchum Watch: The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)




Watched:  07/16/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Peter Yates

I've been hearing about this one for a while, and I can see why.  Mitchum was in a weird period here where he was far older than in his prime two decades earlier, but his age and everything he'd done to himself for his adult life comes with him when he shows up in a role.  Add in his bona fides as part of the noir movement and his already naturalistic (if swaggerish) acting style, and he fits into the era well.  That said, I've not seen his outings as Marlowe, so that's soon, I think.

It's funny, I've definitely had the same thoughts that I saw reflected in this article from The Ringer that I read yesterday about the 1990's neo-noir movement.  Particularly the thought that resonated was that the 1990's noir movement had as much or more to do with filmmakers of the 1990's wanting to make movies like they grew up with in the 1970's than it had to do with anyone wanting to remake Kiss of Death (which they did, and is not the original, but it's fine).  And, likewise, the filmmakers of the 1970's using noir tropes to say something about the same world that insisted on Donnie and Marie.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Neo-Noir Watch: Remember My Name (1978)



Watched:  07/13/2021
Format:  TCM Underground on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Alan Rudolph

Into it.  

A late 1970's sorta-thriller where the viewer slowly puts the pieces together as you watch a clearly broken woman arrive in LA and then target a couple who don't seem to know her.  

Remember My Name (1978) stars Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie) as an ex-con who seems a bit off, even for the actions she's taking.  Frankly, Chaplin is pretty great here, working in a sort of breezy, Altman-esque manner (Altman produced the film).  Weirdly, Chaplin is still wildly prolific, but is working in corners that means I just haven't seen her in much - and didn't know who she was when I did see her.  

Watch Party Watch: The Creeping Flesh (1973)




Watched:  07/12/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Freddie Francis

I had no expectations whatsoever of this film, but figured it might be okay as it co-starred Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  Anyway, The Creeping Flesh (1973) is not a Hammer Horror film, but feels like a sister film to The Horror Express.  

Why, Signal Watch? you may ask.  Well, dear reader, this movie is about bringing the remains of an unknown being from New Guinea into someone's house and then shit gets weird/ scary.  That movie is about a scientist moving the remains of an unknown being from China to Europe via the Trans-Siberian Express and, in transit, shit gets weird/ scary.  

This one has a very different take - possibly including a form of evil that's a literal virus with very pronounced flagella.  Also, a crazy daughter.   Add in Lee as an amoral scientist/ custodian of an insane asylum, and a frazzled Cushing as a gentleman scientist, and...  there's nothing not to like.  

Monday, July 12, 2021

Noir Watch: Guilty Bystander (1950)




Watched:  07/11/2021
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  

I had absolutely no idea what Guilty Bystander (1950) was, and it sounds like the making of the film is film-worthy in and of itself.  I've seen enough low-budget films from the 1950's to recognize one when I see one, and it's positively weird to see Zachary Scott - five years earlier in blockbuster Mildred Pierce - and Faye Emerson, now married to American royalty, trying to save a picture through force of will and acting when the story is a mess and sometimes a scene just drones on for minutes past its expiration date.  

Weirdly, it also has some fascinating stuff!  Zach Scott plays an ex-cop who was maybe sliding toward alcoholism (as the very real Zach Scott was doing) when he made a mistake and decided to quit the force.  Which led to him leaving the very-together Faye Emerson, who you think would have gotten his straightened out if he'd stuck around.  She's tough, man!  Anyway, now he's a hotel detective in a hotel that seems like it can't afford a desk clerk, let alone a detective.  But mostly he just drinks.  Until Faye Emerson comes and gets him to tell him his son has been... taken?  Disappeared?  Anyway, he's not home.

Scott then basically tries to stay sober through the film, and it's kind of weird and depressing to watch as he sometimes does have a drink and people give him drinks knowing they shouldn't.  It's kinda heavy.

But it's also a mess of a movie that doesn't make a ton of sense, has some wildly convenient happenstances, and sometimes just refuses to agree that a scene is over or should change camera angles.  I cannot imagine what chips were cashed in to get Sam Levene for his scene as Scott's former cop colleague, but they clearly only had him for a few hours, because... in many movies, they change camera angles.  But I always like Sam Levene popping up.  


60th Anniversary Watch: West Side Story (1961)




Watched:  07/10/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Robert Wise/ Jerome Robbins

So...  it'd been a while since I'd seen West Side Story (1961).  No real new insight here, but... the re-make (by Spielberg, coming soon) is going to drive all sorts of discussions when The Kids figure out people have been aware of many of today's social issues for... ever.  And it's not comforting that we're not many steps forward from where we were in the 1950's when the play was written.

Also - expect people to freak out that the last 1/3rd of the musical, just as you may remember Romeo and Juliet, is just super depressing.  Like, no one is a hero in this thing.  Maybe Maria.  And even Anita's attempts to warn Tony almost lead to outright rape at the hands of the very guys she's momentarily holding blameless for her love's death.  

Sunday, July 11, 2021

PODCAST: "Theatre of Blood" (1973) - A Signal Watch Horror Canon PodCast w/ SimonUK and Ryan




Watched:  07/07/2021
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Douglas Hickox



SimonUK and Ryan take the stage to talk a 1970's Brit-horror favorite! Join us as we soliloquize on a film that goes deep on The Bard, delivers Vincent Price in fine form, gives us Diana Rigg in a look I doubt she sported much in public, and plenty of chills, thrills and camp gallows humor! It's a big cast having a grand time at the grand guignol!



Music
Theatre of Blood Main Theme - Michael J Lewis
Theatre of Blood, Edwina's Theme - Michael J Lewis

 
Canon Playlist

Friday, July 9, 2021

Hitch Watch: Shadow of a Doubt (1943)




Watched:  07/09/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Fourth
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Hitchcock

There's no reason in the world for me to write anything about Shadow of a Doubt (1943), if you're assuming I'd have anything new to say on one of the most discussed and analyzed films of the past century.  

I saw it the first time in film school, and, man, was I sold.  Re-watching it now, I'm no less - if even more - sold.  

So, go out and watch it, even if you've seen it before.

And, man, I love the one classmate of Theresa Wright's who is working in the bar and has the best "well, my life turned out shitty" attitude of anyone put to film.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Neo-Noir Heist Gangster Watch: No Sudden Move (2021)




Watched:  07/08/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Soderbergh

I'm not going to bother with a plot summary for this one.  It's too twisty-turny, and anything I'd say would spoil the damn thing.  Plus, I want to watch it again almost immediately.

What is weird is that I've never not thoroughly enjoyed a movie by director Steven Soderbergh, but I also don't seek them out.  I've maybe seen 1/3rd or less of his output in film, and pretty much zero of his television (I did watch the first season of The Knick), but - I'll rewatch the movies when they're on and basically acknowledge I like his stuff.  

And this movie is no exception.  

Released directly to HBOmax in this year of 2021 as WB wades through the echoes of the HBOmax launch, COVID and whatever the AT&T execs thought were swell ideas before realizing "oh, damn, we don't know what we're doing and we keep setting the place on fire" with WB and dumping it... this one is easy to access if you've already got your HBOmax subscription - so go watch it.  No, seriously.

No Sudden Move (2021) stars a dozen people you know and like, and you'll grow to know and like a few more along the ways (this film was a reminder to go back and watch Uncut Gems to see Julia Fox in another project).  

Don Cheadle, Del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Brenda Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Ray Liotta and Signal Watch fave Bill Duke.  And dozens and dozens more.  Standouts in an amazing cast include Amy Seimetz as Harbour's wife and young Noah Jupe as his teen son.  

What starts as a gangland picture becomes a heist picture, and all with a twinge of noirishness to it, more for some characters than others.  There's no small amount of commentary baked into the movie, so be ready for that - including the conflicts between ethnicities and races in 1950's Detroit - echoing through clearly to 2021.  It moves at a hell of a clip for a 2 hour film, and it's hard to know at the outset what's important and what's not - but assume it's all important.  Like most Soderbergh movies, it's satisfying because it uses all the parts of the animal in the stew.  

In an era where actors bemoan somehow having two Marvel movies per year means they can't get work or there's nothing else happening - it is a welcome change to see Soderbergh show up with his stock players and put on another show, even if it's not on the big screen.  

There's some technical choices made I have questions about, and I'm curious about, and we can discuss at some future date, but it was enough to make me wonder if I screwed up the settings on my TV.  

Anyhoo.  No Sudden Move is excellent.  I have no notes for the cast and crew.

And I have a question for anyone who wants to take the discussion offline.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Richard Donner Merges With the Infinite

 

Director Richard Donner has passed at the age of 91.

Donner has directed and produced a tremendous number of films that impacted my generation, from The Omen to Lethal Weapon to Scrooged to Goonies to, of course, Superman: The Movie.  

Of course, closest to our hearts here is and will be Superman: The Movie, one of my first movie memories, and - curiously - the movie that has perhaps had the most impact on my life of any film.  And I can name a handful of people who can say the same.  While film is a massively collaborative medium, and here at the Signal Watch we only pay attention to auteur theory in certain cases, it was Donner who shepherded that movie and vision of Superman as a friend, a pal, a genuinely good person here to assist us, to the big screen - and in the period of cinema that was perhaps more genuinely and honestly cynical than the market-driven edginess of today.  The Salkinds bank-rolled the thing and Reeve and Kidder were themselves, but Donner's the guy who brought it together and put it on the screen.


Wardrobe may become outdated, a few cultural touchstones no longer work, but I can tell you... I've sat in more than a half-dozen theaters as an adult watching Superman unspool before always very mixed audiences (the matinees are always best attended and most fun), and this film still works, full stop.  People laugh, they cheer, they ooh and aah at this movie.  And they absolutely, totally buy into the idea of Superman, himself.  

Donner gets left out of the USC-explosion conversation and the new wave of Hollywood blockbusters.  He's older than Spielberg and Lucas, maybe didn't get the press and adulation they did, but he kept a hand in film and television straight through today, moving on from direction when so many of his contemporaries faded.  He hadn't directed in some time, working as a producer, but he had a head for story and character and how they intermingled that's undeniable, and necessary to make a film that has a chance of working.  I mean - go look at what Donner did with Scrooged some time.  That's a remarkable movie and lives on in the cinema landscape in a way dozens of other 80's comedies and endless Christmas Carol adaptations haven't managed to accomplish.  

And, of course, he was great in interviews - a sort of chummy, baritone-voiced fellow who made it sound like work he was delighted to do.  Maybe not delving into a lot of discussion of art and artistry, but what would make a film actually work.  

I will surely miss knowing he's out there, but he left a terrific legacy.  Here's to one of the greats.  Godspeed.

Food Watch: Chef (2014)




Watched:  07/03/2021
Format:  Amazon Prime (I think.  Jamie dialed it up.)
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Jon Favreau

Chef (2014) is a terrific little film, not too hung up on being more than light entertainment with a bit of grounding in mid-life crisis and family issues.   And, of course, the whole thing is kind of meta.  

Starting as a kind of wunderkind responsible for writing and starring in Swingers back in '96, Favreau had been working on bigger and bigger films, not least kickstarting the Marvel Universe by directing, starring in and otherwise producing the Iron Man films (at pre and post-Disney Marvel).  But if the movie is about a guy who works at a well-respected LA bistro, losing touch with his son and after the divorce from his wife (a very good+funny Sofia Vergara), and certainly in a rut professionally - one can see how Favreau might have come to a story about a guy who felt like he needed to get back to the basics of what he loved in the first place.  

In the film, he accidentally starts a twitter-war with a famed food reviewer that... escalates.  Favreau has to do what Rocky's of all types have always done - go back to where it started and find the passion again.  Unfortunately for me, that starting over looked awesome, and I was starving while watching the movie.