Showing posts with label movies 2021. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies 2021. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Joan Watch: Queen Bee (1955)




Watched: 06/22/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Ranald MacDougall

Jenifer was good enough to host a watch party this evening and selected Queen Bee (1955), a film from Joan Crawford's mid-40's to mid-50's cycle.  

I'd label the movie as a "Southern Gothic Melodrama", and I wouldn't be shocked to see it pop up on Noir Alley, either, but not til we've exhausted other films like Flamingo Road, which fits the bill better.   I genuinely enjoyed the film, in part because it's so bonkers and done with complete sincerity as Crawford manipulates everyone around her in a grand old house in small-town Georgia.  

The film co-stars Barry Sullivan and John Ireland, but our POV is the young cousin of Crawford played by Lucy Marlow, who arrives after her schooling to be a sort of companion/ secretary to Crawford.  But I just figured out the woman playing one smaller role was Fay Wray, aged 48 or so.  Mind officially blown.

You can't not comment on the fact that Crawford was 50 or older when the movie was filmed and is still playing a woman who is probably supposed to be no older than 35.  I can never think of anyone who pulled this sort of thing off in the studio-era for as many movies in a row who wasn't Mae West.  But casting contemporary Wray against her as a former rival for the affections of Barry Sullivan, is no mean feat.  And, look, it's not a criticism.  Crawford's make-up was more a problem by 1955 than the actual aging process, and in some shots and in some entire films from the era, it works.  Crawford herself is no less powerful an actress, and one wonders if she dialed it back how she might have appeared (although her hair in this film is the tight perm of the mid-50's that did few women any favors). 

But, yeah, it's a tidy 100-or so minutes of Crawford wreaking all sorts of havoc upon her own family and their lovers.  It's got some outstanding dialog, terrific cinematography (Charles Lang), and you can't outguess the movie as it unfolds.  

 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Shark Watch: Jaws 2 (1978)




Watched:  06/21/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing: First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Jeannot Szwarc

I've seen the original Jaws probably 20 times, but as part of my day waiting for the AC repairman, and as yesterday was the 46th anniversary of the release of Jaws, I figured... maybe give that sequel a spin?

Jaws 2 (1978) arrived 3 years after the original, and had some of the band still in place.  Scheider and Lorraine Gary reprised their roles, as well as Murray Hamilton as Mayor Vaughn, our canary in the coal mine that politicians don't actually have to worry about disasters or deaths they cause through incompetence so long as people refuse to ever admit maybe the voted for the wrong person.  

Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb is back, as well as the same producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck.  Even John Williams.

But, yeah, it's not Spielberg.  Instead we got Jeannot Szwarc, who you may say:  what else did he do?

Monday, June 21, 2021

Musical Watch: The Harvey Girls (1946)




Watched:  06/21/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  George Sidney

So, I recorded this one as part of the Cyd Charisse "Star of the Month" retrospective on TCM, and while I have been waiting for the AC repair guy to call me back (it's 100 today in Austin), I put the movie on.

I'd always heard the name of the film The Harvey Girls (1946), but didn't know anything about the movie - just that it was a big, 1940's-style musical with Judy Garland as the lead.  I assumed it was about a group of sisters in the Harvey family.  Nope.

Pam Grier Watch: Friday Foster (1975)




Watched:  06/20/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:   Arthur Marks

Friday Foster (1975) comes late in Pam Grier's starring roles in the "blaxploitation" cycle of films.  Curiously, it's also based on a comic strip that ran from 1970-74, which I plan to track down.  But - as you can see by the release date on the movie, the strip was defunct by the time the movie arrived.

From what I saw on the internet, the strip and movie had some things in common, but reversed the course of Friday's career - making her start as a model and wind up as a photographer/ reporter for Glance Magazine.  

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Shudder Watch: Psycho Goreman (2020)




Watched:  06/19/2021
Format:  Shudder
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Steven Kostanski

It's been a minute since I posted.  We had guests for the first time since COVID, and we've been watching a lot of baseball and Ted Lasso, so no movies of late.

It seems Psycho Goreman (2020) is a bit of a cult favorite at the moment among horror aficionados, and I was looking for something fun to watch on my Friday night.  But aside from "sorta like an 80's family movie", "sci-fi alien" and "hilarious", I didn't really know much about it, which is my preference going into most horror.

And, yeah?  It's horror-ish.  Horror adjacent.  Sci-fi.  Comedy.  Something.  

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Ghost Watch: Extra Ordinary (2019)




Watched:  06/12/2021
Format:  Google Play Streaming
Viewing:  First 
Decade:  2010's

A supernatural comedy with an utterly specific and terrific tone, Extra Ordinary (2019) is an Irish comedy about a psychic who'd rather she wasn't, who has chosen a dull existence as a driving instructor until a confluence of events pull her back into the ghost-wrangling work she once performed with her father.

The movie co-stars Will Forte playing an incredibly Will Forte character of a former one-hit wonder and practicer of the Dark Arts who finds himself crossing paths with Rose Dooley, our ghost-wrangler.  

I'm realizing this movie is very hard to talk about without littering the post with spoilers, so just bookmark the movie or add it to your "will watch" column for some night when you need a light, goofy comedy.  



 

Musical Watch: In the Heights (2021)



Watched:  06/10/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Jon M. Chu

A few years back, Jamie and I paid our money and saw a local stage production of In the Heights at the Zach Scott Theatre here in town.  It wasn't a touring show, but it was a professional show with a mix of local talent and hired talent from out of town.  The theater in question struggles, I think, because the audience is on the gray and silver side, and bringing in shows with a hip-hop tinge, or something like Hedwig (which we also saw there) seem to throw off the audiences that still pat themselves on the back for coming in for the Janis Joplin show they do there about three years.  

But the show was solid, not least because the actual source material is what it is.  In the Heights was the work that made Lin Manuel Miranda in the musical theatre world and enabled him to do something as ambitious as Hamilton.  And, I don't think I need to tell you a ton about where that carried him.  

The movie of In the Heights (2021) was supposed to be released summer of 2020, I believe, but was shelved until this summer, and is now enjoying both a theatrical release and a release on HBOmax.  

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Disney Watch: 101 Dalmatians (1961)



Watched:  06/09/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  oh, man.  Who knows?
Decade:  1960's
Directors:  


You ever wonder what people from Dalmatia think about dogs being known better than people from their land?  Like, you live somewhere for thousands of years, and no one can find you on a map, but someone mentions a spotted dog and everyone gets really excited.

Anyway, I also get very excited thinking about spotted dogs, and growing up, this one was a favorite.  It had (a) talking dogs, (b) adventure, and (c) a very funny cat.   I found Cruella DeVil one of the better Disney villains, and since I'm not paying $30 to watch the new Cruella movie, I figured I'd rewatch this one and then maybe the Glenn Close movies.  

The movie is from the period at Disney in which Walt was still alive, but he wasn't really paying much attention to the animated films.  He had his amusement parks, some live action films going, and was letting animation just do its thing.  The Nine Old Men were running things, as near as I can tell.

If I'm being honest, as much as I love the film, you can feel that the story department was given a backseat to the animation department.  The movie is gorgeous, a huge technical achievement, and has phenomenal character animation.  But it's also got some bits that just go on too long and unneeded sequences that you can tell they just really enjoyed making.  The end result is a fairly brief film that has beats that can really drag.  

But, yeah, I still very much like it, but sometimes you do wonder "what is happening here?"  It's not as bad as The Aristocats, which I find unwatchably dull, but...  I do have notes.  

But if I ever get a cat again, I'm naming it Sgt. Tibbs.  

X-Watch: The New Mutants (2020)




Watched:  06/09/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Josh Boone

So, way, way back when in the long ago of the mid-80's, I picked up either my first New Mutants comic, or one of my first New Mutants comics, during the "Mutant Massacre" storyline that wove between the X-Titles and a few other comics.  Seeing a bunch of high school kids who were sneaking out and getting involved in the cataclysmic events of the storyline - and absolutely shook by what they saw - absolutely registered with me.  

I was a bit of a New Mutants fan for a few years, but (a) always knew I'd missed the truly weird beginning of the comic series of the actual students at Xavier's Academy, and (b) I became irritated enough with where the comic went post-Claremont that, at some point I wrote my first letter I intended to send in.  However, rather than send in something that was just a list of grievances, I decided "maybe I can just stop reading the comic instead", and did.  I was long gone by that final, Liefeld-fueled phase.

But I genuinely liked those characters, so I didn't want to give up on them when I did.  The New Mutants in the 80's were written as high school kids going through a very weird path to adulthood, but still very much teens.  They didn't have things sorted out, they behaved often like teenagers with petty outbursts, and generally had their own soap opera going on from month to month as they sorted through psychic powers, the death of a friend, and living in the shadow of the X-Men.  But, yeah, they dated, had a rival school they clashed with, and had complicated relationships with their families.

I've since read a collection of the issues that comprised The Demon Bear Saga from which the movie borrows, and it's some pretty good stuff.  Recommended.  

I'm not sure what to make of the movie of The New Mutants (2020).  

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

New Wave Watch: Breathless (1960)




Watched:  06/08/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Godard

Sigh.  

Look, I don't dislike "New Wave" exactly, but the one time I watched a Godard movie previously it was so hilariously up it's own ass, it was pretty much unspoofable (for the record, it was Godard's King Lear).  

I've also been aware that thanks to Godard and his buddies, we even have the term "film noir".  They loved the same crime melodramas of the post-war period that I tend to enjoy.  They wrote about them and got people to think about that glut of crime movies in a different way.  

Crawford Watch: Possessed (1947)

 


Watched:  06/07/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Curtis Bernhardt

I'd watched this one a few years back, and - with more Crawford pics, more Van Heflin, and more cinema in general to inform me about the movie - I very much wanted to revisit the film.  

Much like High Wall, released around the same time and with a fraction of the budget, the movie is interested in the origins, effects and possible solutions to mental disorders.  Unlike High Wall, Possessed (1947) doesn't all feel like a lot of nonsense to give gravity to a standard pulp-derived pot boiler.  

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Teen Watch: High School Hellcats (1958)




Watched:  06/05/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's (and how)
Director:  Edward Bernds


TEENS.

TEEN GIRLS.

TEEN GIRLS IN A GANG.

A gang that TRICKS YOU INTO WEARING SLACKS WHEN THAT IS STRICTLY AGAINST THE DRESS CODE.

High School Hellcats (1958) is part of the post WWII shock and awe that occurred when the Greatest Generation had their own kids, and since we were in our first real generation where kids weren't sent to a field or factory or married off at age 14, we accidentally invented "the teenager", and then, immediately, "the juvenile delinquent" when those teens used their free time and allowances to cause a ruckus by dancing to rock AND roll down at the soda fountain.

This movie is dumb as hell, following the dumber-than-a-bag-of-rocks protagonist/ heroine "Joyce" as she is moved to a new town.  Borrowing from Rebel Without a Cause (3 years earlier), Joyce's parents are distracted with lawyering and Bridge Club, and just want for her to behave, be home for supper and not date boys.  Also, pointedly, for a now kinda not exactly a slip of a girl to not run around the house in her underwear.  In truth, Joyce is a moron and a boor, so you kinda understand why dad wants her on a short leash.

She moves to a new school which is apparently segregated by gender, and she's immediately bullied into joining a gang called "The Hellcats", who seem to both seem hate her and insist on her membership and loyalty.  Yes, they neg her into joining.  Their big initiation is tricking her into wearing pants, which she isn't supposed to do.  When her teacher says "oh, yeah, we don't do that at this school.  Not a huge deal.  Do you have a skirt?" in tears she runs out of the school and seeks solace in the person of a local soda jerk who claims he's going to college and denies having any personal attachments, so he'll just focus on Joyce, thank you.  Entirely on Joyce.*

The gang is made up of some real winners and  insists Joyce get nothing higher than a "D" for a grade, and is otherwise obsessed with parliamentary procedure.  Joyce is all in.  If she's going to randomly decide who to people-please while acting shocked that anyone else has some pretty basic expectations of her as a human, throwing in with the down-slope of the bell curve is absolutely the way to a brighter future.

I'm not clear on what The Hellcats existed to do.  There's no organized crime, there don't seem to be threats of violence from which Joyce needs protection  - except the Hellcats themselves, and then it seems like telling a teacher or principal "hey, those girls just threatened me.  Is this normal?" would start the needed conversation.  We're told the school is crawling with gangs, but...  it's not apparent this is true or why or what for.  So, in the manner of all people searching for a reason to exist when there is none - they really do get hooked on their internal rules.  And as we all know, nothings says "rebel" like coming up with new and arbitrary rules!

Look, this movie is prime quality MST3K/ RiffTrax/ Friday Watch Party material.  At the same time, knowing how sneaky and dumb high schoolers can be (and more than occasionally homicidal), it's hard to say "oh, this is so unbelievable".  Y'all, if you told me all this was based on real events, I'd just say "yeah, okay.  Man, high schoolers are dumb."  Not all of them, but, you know, a LOT of them.  This is where we get dumb adults.  

I HIGHLY recommend High School Hellcats.  It's short, mind-bending, an absolute time-capsule, and shows what happens when you cross a second-banana who knows she's absolutely peaking before graduation.

Out of nowhere, it gets really dark really fast, and just gets darker from there as everyone on screen makes wildly stupid choices but which would make for a keen set-up for Season 2 of Mare of Easttown.

*it's a reminder that back in the day, anyone over the age of 14 was, apparently, fair game.  And why we have certain laws in place.  

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Whoops Watch: Gun Crazy (1950)




Watched:  06/05/2021
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Director:   Joseph H. Lewis

Well, I turned on the TV and Gun Crazy (1950) was on TCM and at the part where an adult Bart meets Annie Laurie at the sideshow, and the next thing I knew I was finishing the movie.  

So, yeah.

Sensible Watch: Sense and Sensibility (1995)




Watched:  06/05/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Ang Lee

It's kinda wild how much the basic structure of a Jane Austen novel doesn't just work for modern audiences, it's still one of the gold standards for how you tell a story about complicated paths to romance.  Parents must be dead or checked out, usually our female protagonist is on the poor side (poor being wildly relative in an 18th Century story about people who weep and weep over moving from their mansion into what seems to be a 2 story, 5 bedroom house, with some amount of domestic help in service).  There's a sexy, fun guy who is a problem, and a seemingly aloof or disjointed fellow who is, of course, the non-threatening right choice.  

There's nothing wrong with it, and unlike Pride and Prejudice, this one doesn't rub it in your face that the lead winds up marrying, like, the literal richest and most eligible possible bachelor (I'm talking movie versions here).  Like, I get that it's all fantasy, but if you want to convince people "money is less important than other characteristics", Sense and Sensibility is probably the better choice.  How hard is it to love a handsome guy with abs who can and wants to provide for your every extravagant desire?*

The talent associated with the movie is insane.  Ang Lee as director, Emma Thompson wrote the script and stars, a career-making early role for Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Hugh Laurie and an army of "that lady" and "that guy" actors.  

Watching this movie for the first time in quite a while, I enjoyed it a lot more.  And I liked it the first time.  I'm mellowing in my middle-age, and generally being irritated with 18th century class-based social mores is now a framing for a movie for me rather than an overall annoyance that makes me kida side-eye everybody.  

But, look, I'm trying to watch stuff that's a bit out of my wheelhouse.  Not everything is superhero action-comedies and mid-20th Century kinda sexy crime dramas.  And if you're going to check out genres not-meant-for-you, you might as well take in some of the very best.  Plus, anyone who doesn't like Emma Thompson is probably a bad person.  


*I confess I sorta landed the male-fantasy equivalent of this with the wife who is gorgeous, and just wants to play with dogs, watch baseball and Marvel movies and TALK about all of these items

Friday, June 4, 2021

Totter Watch: High Wall (1947)




Watched:  06/03/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director: Curtis Bernhardt

I watched this film a few years ago, and it seemed to bare a re-watch.

In the mid-40's, movies started to dabble a bit in the field of pop psychology.  Now, I'm not a psychologist and I am pretty unfamiliar with the practice, but I do recognize clunky, semi-pedantic approaches to delivering ideas.  And chucking those ideas in the 3rd reel in the name of plot.  

High Wall (1947) is a pretty solid noir mystery that wants to exploit the latest trends in exploring the maze of the human mind, but also has one foot in "I dunno, do some hand waving about some medical stuff to expedite the story" that has always been par for the course for movies (and television).  And, of course, throws medical ethics out the window when a lady gets romance-feelings for a possible murderer.  

Thursday, June 3, 2021

SimonUK Watch: Dead Heat (1988)

Watched:  06/02/2021



Format:  DVD
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's
Director:   Mark Goldblatt

In 1987 or 1988, when this movie *should* have been aimed directly at me, I saw the trailer for Dead Heat (1988) and took a hard pass.  I never cared much for Joe Piscopo, and I can say I had no idea who Treat Williams was in 1988.  So, alive or dead, I didn't really care to see a buddy-cop comedy starring these two.

Mostly, I'd totally forgotten this movie existed until about two years ago when Simon suggested I watch it.  But I did remember it.  Joe Piscopo.  Cops.  One of them was dead.  Probably Piscopo.  

So, last night was the first time in a year or so Simon has been to our house for a movie night (hooray, vaccines!).  Si brought an assortment of films, but I decided finally watching this movie was a thing we should do.  

Look, Simon really, really likes this movie and was generous enough to share it with me.  And I will say this - it does have a bonkers final 20 minutes.  I liked the last 20 minutes.  

It is directed by the same guy who directed the 1989 Punisher movie that me and like 20 other people have ever seen.  But apparently he's an amazing editor.  Terminator 2 and other credits.  But, man, it just *feels* like a Corman movie as much or more than anything else that came out of New World Pictures in the late 80's.  

Anyway, Simon really likes this movie, and there's no reason for us to take a knock at it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Musical Watch: Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956)




Watched:  06/02/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Roy Rowland

Cyd Charisse is Star of the Month on TCM.  We're on record that Cyd Charisse is a pretty good idea in general, and so we're going to watch some of these movies we've not seen before (they're airing on Tuesdays in June).  

This one felt more or less like an excuse for a variety of talents and Vegas floor shows to do a little something here and there in a showcase tucked between the paper-thin story of a Vegas gambler/ rancher and a ballerina who meet and fall in love.  That ballerina is, of course, Charisse.  You won't know the gambler/ rancher.

But the movie also has Agnes Moorehead as an earthy ranchwoman, Jim Backus as a casino manager, George Chakiris as a young romantic, Paul Henreid as Cyd's manager, Frankie Lane as Frankie Lane, and... most exciting of surprises... Lena Horne as Lena Horne.  

It's... dopey and fine.  I don't love it.  Charisse is amazing in every one of her numbers, not the least of which is a "Frankie and Johnny" performance (with narration by Sammy Davis Jr.).  

Anyway, I wouldn't rush out to see it, but it's... fine.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Horror Watch Party: Burnt Offerings (1976)




Watched:  06/01/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Dan Curtis

I liked this one!  A haunted house movie filmed in the country house I'm familiar with from A View to a Kill.  But Burnt Offerings is in the mode of haunted house film I quite like, from The Haunting to The Shining.  But maybe a lot more indirect than those films?

The cast is small, but contains Burgess Meredith (briefly), Bette Davis, Karen Black, Oliver Reed and Anthony James.  Also, the kid who grew up to become Jeff in Girls Just Want to Have Fun.  

I have also realized talking about the movie any more will spoil it, so I'm gonna shut up.

Phenomenal Movie Watch: Gremlins 2 - The New Batch (1990)




Watched:  05/31/2021
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  Oh, god.  Who knows...
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Joe Dante

Surely I've talked about Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) before.  Or should podcast on it.  

But, yes, I know you all love Gremlins, but this is the better movie by a country mile.  I'm not sure I much more than generally like Gremlins,* but Gremlins 2 is an amazing film on every level.  Not the least of which is a Haviland Morris level (I'm not sure we're supposed to say that out loud, but here you, me and 15-year-old-me are).  

Anyway, Gremlins 2 does not give a @#$%, and you should rewatch it sometime.

*it's fine.  I like watching it every once in a while.

Monday, May 31, 2021

PODCAST: "RoboCop" (1987) - A Signal Watch Canon PodCast w/ JAL & Ryan



Watched:  05/24/2021
Format:  BluRay (Arrow)
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Paul Verhoeven



Dead or alive, you're listening to this PodCast! JAL and Ryan stay out of trouble and talk a 1980's sci-fi action drama satire that's way the hell better than it should be. We look at the movie that may have had way more about to say about our present day back in 1987 than near any other sci-fi of the last 50 years. Join us as talk what we love about a movie about a guy we call "Robo".




Music: 
Drive Montage -  Basil Poledouris, RoboCop OST


Signal Watch Canon: