Monday, November 28, 2016
This will be an easy movie to write up. (1) I assume most of you who are the target audience (parents of young 'uns) will have seen this movie, and (2) I sort of lost any critical eye I might have had for the movie about five minutes in.
I just straight up liked this movie.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
I forgot to write this one up when we watched it a while back. It happens.
For a long time I thought the first MST3K episode I'd ever seen was Bride of the Monster, the Bela Lugosi-starring picture by Ed Wood with Lugosi playing a mad scientist living in a spooky old house with a slow-witted assistant and pursued by an eager girl reporter out to prove her mettle. But I actually remembered one of the jokes from the first time I saw MST3K, and as I've subsequently watched Bride of the Monster more than once, I've realized: nope, that joke wasn't used with that film.
So, I have very particular memories of the day I first saw MST3K which helped me track down the correct episode.
For no particular reason, we watched Return of the Jedi this evening.
It seems dumb to write up a Star Wars movie, so I won't. We were going to watch A New Hope, but decided to wait til after Rogue One.
But, man, Luke is the world's biggest back-seat driver.
Friday, November 25, 2016
In our house, a visit from The Dug is a holiday tradition, and part of that visit is always filling two hours of my life with regret. I don't go in for terrible movies quite the same way I used to, but I'm still willing to roll up my sleeves and dig back in a few times per year.
To refer to Rollergator (1996) as a "movie" is a bit of a stretch. Shot on, at best, 3/4" tape (but I strongly suspect it's S-VHS) over what may be, at longest, 3 days, it's nearly impossible to tell if the movie has a script, who this movie was intended for, and what anyone involved was thinking.
For something like 80-85 minutes, this thing just keeps happening, and it's all you can do by the 15 minute mark (even with the benefit of Rifftrax) to not start slamming your head in a car door to make the weird, dull pain behind your eyes go away.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
I was glad to get a chance to re-watch Zootopia (2016), which I'd last caught on a plane from Austin to London, and that's never an ideal viewing environment. You can read my write up here. I also think that whatever version I saw on the place was the British version, which was maybe called Zootropolis, because in the version we watched last weekend I'm pretty sure they called the city Zootopia.
Anyway, I still liked the movie just as much. It's not the same instant myth-making as Frozen or Beauty and the Beast (and did y'all see that trailer for the live action version? Pretty keen.), it's too high concept and plot-driven. In it's way, it's dealing with a lot of cultural abstractions that, pretty clearly, a lot of people are not quite internalizing and dealing with in the adult world, which makes the all-ages nature of the film kind of a peculiar fit.
But, yeah, I still like the movie quite a bit.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Ah. Okay. So.
I had a free rental for some reason at Vulcan Video, so I wanted to continue down the path of watching some additional Hammer Horror. I was vaguely aware of the movie The Vampire Lovers (1970), maybe from a suggestion from one of you fine people. I don't know. What I did know was that the Hammer aficionados have a warm spot in their hearts for Ingrid Pitt, and this one was heavily featuring Ms. Pitt, so who was I to not watch this movie?
Monday, November 14, 2016
At one point in my life, I was an Arnold Schwarzenegger completionist. If Arnie put out a movie, I was seeing it. This went right up through his pre-Governator movies that were of middling quality. It is true I fell down on the job and didn't see Jingle All the Way during it's theatrical release, but I did rent it with my mom the following Christmas, and we yukked it up together to the antics of Arnie and Sinbad.
But somehow, I missed out on Kindergarten Cop (1990). I don't know how or why. It's kind of odd, really, because it came out during a window when I went to the movies on a weekly basis, and movies were in the theater for usually about a month or more before disappearing back then. And Kindergarten Cop did pretty well. Lots of people saw it.
Further confounding my how's and why's, the movie co-stars Penelope Ann Miller, who was a draw for me back in the day in a post The Freshman world (and even pre-The Shadow). The only thing I can think is that movie came out in December 1990, shortly after I'd moved to Houston but before I had a driver's license. So, it's possible I couldn't get to the cinema and I didn't have anyone to go with.
So, I finally watched the movie.
And it is terrible.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
I don't know where to start or what, exactly, to say about Starcrash (1978).
I'd heard of the movie decades ago as it was always in with the sci-fi/ fantasy movies at video rental shops, but with Caroline Munro in a vinyl bikini on the box cover, I knew better than to bother to rent the movie. When I was young enough to have to ask my parents to rent something for me, I didn't want to put up with the questions and then the reporting my parents would gleefully do given the first opportunity (my family looooooves a good embarrassing story, and a 10 year old Ryan standing there with a video with a buxom space-lady on the cover would have been fodder for them for weeks, if not years).
When I got older and was renting movies on my own, and, I know it seems counter-intuitive if you've been following this site for a while, but I already knew any movie relying on a bikini-clad off-brand actor on the cover wound up as a terrible decision. Yes, it was also the kind of thing that became fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000 in it's later years when the cheaply produced post Star Wars/ post Mad Max knock-offs were showing up over and over at the video store, but without Joel or Mike to guide me through, it wasn't worth it.* And, I don't mind that at one point in my life I was subconsciously trying to understand what was and was not a good movie.
Saturday, November 12, 2016
No real write-up. We re-watched The Legend of Tarzan (2016), which I wrote up this summer.
It's too bad this film didn't perform better and get more attention, because I quite like where they were going with Tarzan here. It's a leap from the books and various other incarnations, but it was a version I would have gotten me back to the theater for a sequel, and it was at least as fun as Doctor Strange, while also having something of a point to it (which I'm not sure you can say about Marvel's latest entry).
It's also weird to think a movie can make $356 million and be seen as a "meh" performance, but that's today's Hollywood. If a movie isn't part of a system like the Marvel franchise where they can build and build on even a middling performer (see Ant-Man or even the first Captain America movie), it's really tough to get a second go or, weirdly, even to get any attention. I mean, it's kind of funny we'll take Doctor Strange seriously (it's at $350 million after a week! Go, Doc Strange!), but without the Marvel label, we'll shrug off Tarzan.
In short: that Marvel brand is a powerful thing. Being seen as old or legacy is not.
It's not a perfect movie or even a great movie, but it's certainly okay. I wish it did some things it didn't, but it did lots of things that surprised me, and gave me the first Jane Porter outside of the books or comics I've really liked.
Friday, November 11, 2016
If you're looking for some pure, escapist fun to watch with the kids* (and you want to guarantee they'll enjoy the action while you enjoy the jokes), I really can't recommend the newly released Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) enough.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
What an inexplicably timed movie.
I'd gone into Arrival (2016) with very little knowledge other than it was about "first contact" and starred Amy Adams as a linguist, and at this point, I'll more or less pay to see Amy Adams read the phone book. So, throw in some aliens, some hand-wavy hard science fiction and I was in.
This movie is in line with The Day the Earth Stood Still or the themes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Alien vessels arrive, truly alien, and a very good looking linguist must be put to the task to help the military communicate with the visitors. Of course there are eleven more of these ships scattered across the planet, and everyone is trying to speak to the aliens to find out if they mean us harm.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
It's safe to say that Doctor Strange as a Marvel character has never been much in my wheelhouse. As a kid, the comics always held a certain visual appeal, but I felt like the character was all mustache and cape, dealing with, yeah, world-threatening dilemmas, but always in that vague way of magical characters that didn't hold the immediate familiarity of "oh, Joker's going to kill all those people" or "Magneto is up to his old tricks." I was pretty well into college before I embraced the abstraction of world-ending calamities on a metaphysical scale, mostly by way of Jack Kirby's 70's-era work and Grant Morrison's JLA. But I still never drifted back to Doctor Strange over at Marvel. I'd enjoy his guest appearances everywhere from Spider-Man to The Illuminati-type stuff, but didn't think it was something that needed to be in my monthly "buy" pile.
Really, the only Doctor Strange comics I ever purchased were back when the character was double-billing in Strange Tales with Cloak & Dagger, which I was picking up because I dug Cloak and Dagger. Figuring out what the hell was going on with Stephen Strange, MD, wasn't particularly something I was losing sleep over.
But, the Marvel movies are, for me, an ideal way to engage with the Marvel U in a non-invested sort of way with stuff I was vaguely interested in, but didn't care to get too immersed in. Starting with Iron Man and including everything from Thor and The Avengers to the current incarnation of Guardians of the Galaxy in the comics, I prefer how these packages are presented in movie-form.*
Doctor Strange (2016) is - yes - another Marvel origin story. This is both a reality and problem for Marvel as it rolls out it's ever-broadening line of characters in television and film, as the origins of these characters are, in fact, of great importance to establishing the characters and their motivations for films to come. If not for Iron Man and Captain America as origin stories, how interesting would Civil War have been, really? Or, hell, Winter Soldier? DC Entertainment is finding out the hard way via Suicide Squad's terrible story problems that even an ensemble piece needs a bit more fleshing out.
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
What's to say at this point about Young Frankenstein (1974) that hasn't already been said?
After we handed out candy last night, which ended early, we came in and put on this movie. As much as Frankenstein and Bride of have become part of my Halloween routine, so has Young Frankenstein become how we put a capper on the holiday - which just isn't that spooky once you're handing out "fun-sized" boxes of Nerds to miniature firefighters, princesses and Batmans for a few hours.
It's been a good, if odd (thanks to the World Series), Halloween season, and we appreciate you bearing with us.
Monday, October 31, 2016
In some ways, there's no way in hell this movie could have been made any other time than a certain window post 1985 or before 1991. In other ways, this world is just now catching up to what Cassandra Peterson and company were saying, and an idea that I suspect people of my generation (and older) have a harder time grappling with than the kids today.
I'm not here to argue that Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988) is a bleeding edge comedy, because it has more in common with a sort of groan-inducing shenanigans with a sort of Looney Tunes style of thinking, topped with a winky, we're-not-taking-this-seriously vibe that lands pretty squarely in my wheelhouse.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
It's been years since I've seen it, but once upon a time, I loved the 1940 movie Rebecca. And, yes, should my ship come in, I am absolutely naming my expansive estate "Manderley". I expect to be very unhappy there and hire extremely creepy staff.
The Uninvited (1944) is not Rebecca, but it feels very much of the same mindset and era, like someone took the basic work and pitched it up in some places, toned it down in others and added some layers of complexity while removing some of the scale. Also - ghosts.
That doesn't mean I didn't like The Uninvited, but it's hard not to see some parallels between stories of lovely seaside houses and the mysteries they hold about their former mistresses. A good PG-sort of fright fest, The Uninvited has genuinely creepy moments and does a pretty good deal on a World War II era budget and with the limited casting options.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Despite endorsements from multiple trusted sources, somehow I'd never gotten around to watching Sam Raimi's post-Evil Dead horror film, Drag Me to Hell (2009). Which is too bad. I wish I'd gotten to it sooner.
If you're a fan of Raimi's other horror work, this is more or less in line (and possibly in continuity) with the world of Ash and the deadites. I was surprised how much it shared both aesthetically and in spirit with the Evil Dead franchise - mixing the horrific with the grotesque with slapstick.
I don't want to oversell the movie - it's not a life-changing experience, but it was perfect for a bit of Halloween spookiness and mayhem and everything it was trying to do worked for me. And, coincidentally or otherwise, the movie feels a bit like an old school Universal horror film in some ways, which is all right as the movie was at least released through the studio.
TCM was on a Universal Monsters sprint last night, and after the frighteningly monstrous loss by the Cubs in Game 3 of the World Series, I needed to chillax for a bit with some creepy mayhem. I watched the last twenty minutes of The Invisible Man (a movie I always give short shrift. It's really good.), and then moved into The Wolf Man (1941).
The Wolf Man is a movie of highs and lows. It sets up a great mythology from whole cloth and the modern-age denial of werewolfism as the result of some psychic shock suffered by our tortured protagonist. Of course all of these things are beats every werewolf movie since has imitated. It contains Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi - even a young Ralph Bellamy. I'm in the camp that likes the monster make-up, but the Wolf Man scenes are better in concept than execution, never really feeling like much more than a large guy manhandling people instead of a monster rending them apart.
It's kind of strange that Universal's 2010 go at rebooting this franchise was such a mess, because - this is a very simple movie. Seems like it should have gone better than it did (I only really liked the bits in the medical college and then in the streets of London - and that felt more like a Landis-homage than anything to do with this movie).
It's certainly a crucial movie for getting monster movie history, and I still think it's very well realized.
But there's an elephant in the room by name of Lon Chaney Jr. And that elephant isn't much of an actor. I really want to like Chaney Jr., but he's playing on the same screen as Claude Rains. There's just no comparison here, and his character spends most of the movie hitting on an engaged woman (I think I found your real wolf here). I wish the scenes with the Wolf Man felt more full of menace, but no matter how well shot and well-lit those scenes are... man. It looks like a hirsute lumberjack on a bender.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Watching a Frankenstein/ Bride of Frankenstein (1935) double-bill has become my personal Halloween tradition. I'd already watched Frankenstein this year, and so needed to work in Bride of, which has been tough with the Cubs actually making it into the World Series. I mean, usually by early October, I'm kinda done with baseball and my football watching is contained to Saturdays.
But, what would Halloween even be (for me) without The Bride of Frankenstein? I don't even want to know.
The movie remains horrific, beautiful, eerie, hilarious. Everything I'd want in a single movie, and everything I like about the holiday.
Here's to Mr. Whale and company, and everything that makes this one of my favorite films.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
I don't know how to categorize this. It was a two-hour television "event" on Thursday night, in prime time. It's a sort of "TV movie", but it's in the manner of one of the live musicals the networks have been doing. Only, it wasn't live.
It also wasn't... very good.
Look, no one has remade this movie to date because the original is lightning in a bottle. It was a movie that's still relevant, but a lot of what was taboo or edgy in that film has lost it's subversion as elements have become or are becoming more mainstreamed. Putting a play/ movie about themes that were still considered unmentionable in the 1970's and turning it into fodder for channel flippers on a Thursday night was going to be difficult - but I almost felt like, Laverne Cox aside, most of the cast didn't really know how this was supposed to work. And, frankly, it didn't feel like the director or producers knew how to do this, either.
To maybe throw some context on this: the show/ movie was directed by Kenny Ortega, a name that's not exactly household for me, but he was the brains behind High School Musical. And, boy howdy, does that explain a lot when you're watching the thing.
Really what struck me while watching this was: Hot Topic.
Monday, October 24, 2016
About thirty minutes into Tower (2016), I realized that the soundtrack to the film included the ever-present sound of cicadas, a tree-dwelling insect which emits a steady humming that all Central Texans know as the droning background noise of the hottest days of summer. I'd tuned the sound out the same way we all do, and I began to realize part of why the film felt so immediate - and why the film is so effective. What the film captures is very real, from glimpses of the University of Texas campus to the sound to the casual chatter about campus life, torn apart on August 1, 1966.
I'd wanted to see this film from when the producers first released footage maybe a year ago. Then friends saw it as SXSW and had positive things to say, and I was encouraged that the documentary would do the event whatever justice could be done.