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

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Noir Watch: The Glass Key (1942)




Watched:  01/16/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  Not sure
Decade:  1940's
Director:   Stuart Heisler

Measured by the fact I think this is the fourth time I've seen this movie, you can take it at face value - I think pretty highly of The Glass Key (1942).  But, it is based on a novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett, co-stars Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, and has a large supporting role for William Bendix - w, yes.  I'm pre-disposed to like the film.  

We're going to cover Miller's Crossing on the podcast at some point, an early 90's Coen Bros. film, and one of my personal canon.  I think I was in early college when I read my first Hammett on JAL's recommendation and got a few pages into Red Harvest before saying "wait a minute, maybe the Coen Bros. weren't so darn clever after all...".   Because, honestly, Miller's Crossing is the love child of The Glass Key and Red Harvest, both Hammett books.*

I did read The Glass Key before seeing this film (and just learned via Eddie Muller there's an earlier version starring George Raft - which may lead to me skipping it) - and, sure, the book is better, yadda yadda.  But, the film is terrific all on its own - a twisting, double-double-crossing political/gangland yarn that adds up perfectly, but the first time through can be hard to keep track of all the parts of the equation.  

Ladd plays the lieutenant to a political boss who, upon meeting the daughter (Lake) of a reform candidate  decides to back the reform candidate.  This gets his boss crosswise with another, shadier, political boss, and all of a sudden Lake's brother winds up dead on the street.  

The movie has a similar tone to a Hammett novel when it comes to casual brutality and unsavory characters.  That includes our lead, who never really throws a punch, but he's not exactly a knight in shining armor as he works angles, falls out with his boss, and tries not to fall for Lake.

The movie is difficult to discuss, but the characters in it are terrifically drawn, each instantly knowable in broad strokes, even if in the framework of the story, they're all capable of anything - which is part of what keeps the mystery of the story rolling.  

Frankly, this is a "could be a TL;DR post" kind of movie, and I'm not going to do that.  Maybe I'll podcast this movie one day instead.  But in the meantime, I highly recommend the film.  Just go with that. 


*and a bit of visual flavoring from The Conformist

Pirate Watch: Against All Flags (1952)




Watched:  01/15/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Director:   George Sherman

I have previously discussed this movie, including just last year.  

I believe that right up properly expresses my appreciation and major points I'd make about the movie.

Noir Watch: The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945)



Watched:  01/15/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR (Noir Alley)
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Siodmak

I'd been wanting to see this one for a while, so I'm glad it came on Noir Alley.  Directed by Robert Siodmak (one of those names that means this should be, minimum, pretty good), starring George Sanders, Ella Raines and Geraldine Fitzgerald and - a more recent interest - produced by Joan Harrison - it had a lot of elements that made it worth at least a look.

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945) centers on a man aging into permanent bachelorhood as he pays the way for and cares for his two sisters - one a widow and the other an invalid.  The family fortune disappeared in the Depression, leaving the siblings scraping by in the rambling house that is a reminder of better times.  "Uncle Harry" (Sanders) meets a co-worker in from New York (Ella Raines) and the two spark an interest.  

However, one of the sisters isn't quite ready to let Harry go.  And things get weird.

The movie was made at the tail end of WWII (released pretty much the weekend after VJ Day), so it's got some similarities to other WWII-era films in that the cast is female-centric and the dashing male lead is George Sanders.  It takes place in limited spaces (based on a play, so there's that) and overall feels initimate and somewhat scaled down.

It's as easy to call this a melodrama as a noir, but I can see why Joan Harrison would have been interested in the script.  The characters are interesting and imperfect - no one (not even Raines) is a saint, and there's some genuine weirdness going on that goes beyond just sisterly affection.*  But, at the same time, Raines' character feels shockingly direct regarding her interest in Harry - she's no coy young lady, even when asked specifically to play that role.

As I thought - direction and performances were terrific, Sanders is in great form, and Geraldine Fitzgerald is note perfect.  But despite the actual warning not to spoil the ending they literally tag onto the end of the movie, I'll say:  the studio enforced ending that led to Harrison's parting with Universal and Siodmak shooting the bird at the studio is... awful.  The movie builds and builds to something absolutely mind-scrambling, and then... we get this cheesy ending.  But, you know, when they were wrapping this thing up, we were still fighting in Japan.  I get that maybe they wanted something that wasn't so depressing.

So, it makes it hard to actually recommend the movie.  It's a solid film right until, literally, the last minute, and then everything falls apart.  Did not like.

During the intro and outro, Eddie was joined by scholar Christina Lane - who has too many credentials for me to get into here - but she's an accomplished film academic.  I just picked up Lane's book on Joan Harrison and plan to crack it this weekend.  So - while I've seen a lot of Harrison's movies over the years, I'm looking forward to reading about the actual woman who made them happen (I also recently picked up Phantom Lady on BluRay and keep intending to show it to Jamie, and then I forget).


*that lady in the negligee is not the romantic subject of the film

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Fran├žaise Regarder: Amelie (2001)




Watched:  01/13/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming - CBS All Access
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Jean-Pierre Jeunet

I think if I'd seen this when it came out, I would have been in my 20's, the techniques used would feel fresher, the gnome thing would not yet have been co-opted by a travel company and become a well know spokesperson, and I would have also walked out of the cinema dazed and delighted, feeling like I'd seen *something*.  Alas, now I am old, and my heart turned to stone.  The whimsy of youth is not what it was, nor the CGI of yesteryear.  

Amelie (2001) is very, very cute.  I bare it no ill will - it sets out to do a thing - a sort of almost magical realism thing - and incorporate CGI and other visual effects to give us picture-book insight into what the characters are going through.  And, in a very weird way, it's like a better version of some goofy 90's stuff like The Butcher's Wife where a particular person in a neighborhood makes all of the kooky characters go through a change before that character goes through a change themselves and we all learn a lesson about love/art/being silly.  You also get similar characters in, say, Batteries Not Included*, but no magical fairy girl to make it all happen.

The movie is not about falling in love.  Like most movies that pitch themselves that way, it's a movie about infatuation that kinda works out.  And that's okay - there's a place for that.  THAT it does very well.  It's two whack jobs circling each other until they finally collide.  Not my cup of tea, but it didn't fail.

It's genuinely better than most of the "neighborhood" movies in technique, ideas, visuals, etc...  but I just didn't really ever care about anyone on the screen.  Including Amelie.  And we are supposed to adore Amelie.  And, at age 26, I would have been *very* into a lovely girl with a Louise Brooks bob and who was demonstrably, cripplingly quirky.  Now...  eh.  

And, per the movie, I need a little bit more than a well edited beginning where they're literally telling as much as they're showing.  At the end of the day, you're telling a story or stories, and, aside from Amelie's father, I didn't get any sense of *closure* with the other characters.  Things happen, yeah - but we have whole storylines started that don't really go anywhere.  It feels like glimpses of anecdotes you never quite get to hear completed.  We spend so much time setting them up, and then... 

That said - I know people are bananas for this movie, so I'm missing something.  


*which has little mechanical aliens and is just adorable

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

WW2 Watch: Where Eagles Dare (1968)




Watched:  01/13/2021
Format:  TCM on my DVR (where it had been languishing)
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1960's
Director:  Brian G. Hutton

While these days certain people would raise their hands and complain this is cancel culture, sometimes it's a good move to just watch a movie where we blow up a bunch of Nazis.  

Seemingly torn from one of those men's adventure magazines of days of yore, When Eagles Dare (1968) follows the completely insane mission of Richard Burton in a rare action role as he pairs with a "in his prime" Clint Eastwood and with a handful of other people, invade a mountain castle Nazi fortress and then blow it the hell up.  

There's a hell of a lot more to the movie - it's really an espionage caper - but I don't want to spoil it if you've not seen it.  But expect lots of machineguns, an unreasonable amount of dynamite, and the unlikely prospect of Richard Burton physically outperforming a 1968 Clint Eastwood.  It had some astounding scenes on some cable cars, a bus ride you won't forget, and lots and lots of uses for a rope with a clip on one end.

In addition to Burton and Eastwood, the movie also stars Mary Ure, and has Ingrid Pitt in a smaller role.  In fact, Pitt appears on screen for several scenes in the back half of the movie, but for some reason, she has no lines and is given nothing to do.  It's honestly kind of weird.  I half think they forgot to write her character in, and then someone thought "we actually need to logically have her here, but we don't want to pay the writer for more scenes" or something.I've certainly heard of similar things happening.*

The *lack* of screentime for Ingrid Pitt in this movie is maybe my only real beef with it.  But that's a beef with all movies, but, like, two.

let the St. Pauli Girl speak!

Anyway - this movie is all plot and action with a minimum of character.  It's a super-tight thrill ride kind of flick, and delivers on its promise.  

*apparently a big driver for why you don't hear someone tell Capone about a character dying in Untouchables in one of the most famous scenes in that movie is not artistry - that's a glad happenstance.  Rather, they couldn't get David Mamet back to write that scene when they knew they needed it.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Evil Brain from Outer Space




Watched:  01/11/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1960's 

So...  this movie starts off weird as hell, which I salute, then goes to goofy fun and TONS of action.  All of which I salute.  

Apparently this is the third in a series of Japanese kids movies about a fellow name of "Starman" who hails from "The Emerald Planet" and is here to save humanity from interplanetary threats via kicking ass and taking names.  He doesn't have a secret identity, even though he changes from his work-a-day coat and tie into a pretty terrific super ensemble that has a kicky antenna and "not a cape" attached to his arms for added flair.

The effects are better than you figure, the stunts out of this world, and while the movie makes little sense, at least it moves fast and is cool as hell.

Count me as a convert to this whole Starman scene.

Oh, and, yes, there's an evil brain.  from outer space.

 



Monday, January 11, 2021

PODCAST: Aliens (1986) - a Signal Watch Canon episode w/ SimonUK and Ryan


Watched:  01/06/2021
Format:  DVD (Legacy Edition)
Viewing:  lol
Decade:  1980's
Director:  James Cameron


We're talking the movies in our personal canon - the movies that opened our minds, expanded our horizons and maybe helped inform who we are. And what better way to reflect upon oneself than with a rip-roaring sci-fi action horror yarn about motherhood, alienation, personal interconnectedness, unexpected surprises and who will stand by you when life really tears you apart.



Music: 
Bishop's Countdown - James Horner, Aliens OST

SimonUK Cinema Series

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Watch Party Watch: The Running Man (1987)




Watched:  01/08/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Paul Michael Glaser

The Running Man (1987) - for being a kinda goofy movie about a gameshow where the contestants are framed-up convincts and convicts with crimes like "not teaching the curriculum to school kids", this movie has some uncomfortably prescient stuff baked in as our janus-faced gameshow host plays to his base of folks who *won* in a prior civil conflict, and are joyfully taking part as people are killing each other for our entertainment.  Not surprisingly, such a dynamic show has cross-demographic appeal, and it's not just the folks who came out on top economically, it's also the folks on the streets who can't look away as desperate men run for their lives.  

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Trek Watch: Star Trek - Nemesis (2002)




Watched:  01/06/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing: First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Stuart Baird

So, this movie wasn't very good.

To be clear - all my favorite ST:TNG people are back (even Wesley Crusher), and they're all good.  The movie even co-stars a very young Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman and good ol' Dina Meyer.   But.  The very premise doesn't make a lot of sense, it weirdly includes what amounts to a rape scene of Troi (handled in the most ham-fisted and traumatizing way possible) which comes from nowhere and is seemingly there only to motivate Troi in the final reel to play Space Ouija Board to find the baddies.*  

But, yeah, Star Trek: Nemesis is about off-brand Romulans and a clone of Captain Picard (Hardy) picking a fight with Picard by planting an early-model of Data on a nearby planet.  They seem to have a modestly large-sized ship that, for reasons I was not clear on, will somehow overtake all of Earth's defenses if the Enterprise crew doesn't stop them.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Noir Watch: The Killer is Loose (1956)



Watched:  01/04/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Budd Boetticher 

We did this as a watch party.  

I already wrote this up a while back, and literally have nothing to add.  

It was super fun to watch with the watch party, but... nope.  No new insights or observations.


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Trek Watch: Star Trek - Insurrection (1998)




Watched:  01/03/2021
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Jonathan Frakes

I had mostly blocked out my prior viewing of Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), remembering it as "the one that felt like a very long episode of the show".  And, indeed, minus the movie suggesting Picard has found the love of his life (who is immediately never again discussed), the movie is more or less a stand-alone episode with some effects that are okay but never amazing.

Mostly, it feels like the cast of Trek screwing around for 45 minutes before the movie remembers it needs to get its act together and do a movie.  And even then, Gates McFadden looks like she's visibly smiling while going pew-pew-pew with a phaser rifle, like "ha ha!  They're letting me do stuff!"  

So, things I liked:

  • Frakes directing himself in a sequence with Troi in a bathtub, irritated that Starfleet is calling
  • Worf does not need to be there, but is, and goes through Klingon puberty for some reason
  •  The Enterprise E is a pretty sweet ride
  • The cast insisting on finding a way to fit in Gilbert & Sullivan during a space battle
  • Hiring F. Murray Abraham at the height of his fame and then making him unrecognizable under layers of make-up
  • Gates McFadden generally just looking pleased to be there even if she has *nothing* to do

But mostly the movie itself doesn't make much sense and goes to some extraordinary script-lengths to create their scenario that is wildly hand-wavy.  But Trek fans should check the set up that leads to the titular "insurrection" as a reminder of how horribly run Starfleet is during Next Generation episodes.  It was a weird staple of ST:TNG that Starfleet was consistently making horrible decisions that Picard would need to rebel against like a cool teen showing up the stuffy principal that of course it made it into a movie.*  I understand a Star Fleet is a tough thing to run, but maybe by the 10th tribunal where Picard is having to do his best Perry Mason, check the man's service record, remember he has no particular reason to be a Romulan agent, and stop threatening to disassemble Troi or whatever they're doing that week.  

Anyway - this is a very weird, very obviously inexpensively made era of Trek-movie, and while I am thrilled the cast is having fun, this whole movie needed a lot more workshopping at the script level than anything else.  

One day they will make a Trek-show where the Captain is not constantly the point man on every dangerous operation, but this movie is not that.  And Ryker flies the Enterpise by joystick AGAIN.

A final note - the movie casts Broadway darling Donna Murphy as Picard's love interest, a 300-year-old alien living on a planet that seemingly will keep her young and rejuvenated forever (she has an action figure and everything!).  Doesn't let her sing or anything.  She has a lot of TV credits, and was coming off doing a stint on the briefly popular Murder One.   But she is actually very solid on a show that I usually just take for granted "look, the lines are nonsense, so if we get 'wooden' as a performance, that's a win sometimes."   

But I strongly suspect I'll immediately forget this movie again, because it makes very little sense.


*So, yeah, next time you're complaining about Picard and saying "Picard would never quit the Federation!  I don't like New Trek", remember the approximately 52 episodes of the show where someone in a bathrobe showed up and Starfleet decided the Enterpise needed to be shutdown or whatever.   Sooner or later, you take your pension and go drink in France.


Inspirational Watch: Eddie the Eagle (2015)


Watched:  01/02/2021
Viewing: First
Decade:  2010's
Format:  Disney+
Director:   Dexter Fletcher

"Based on a true story" is more or less Hollywood speak for "we got the three things you remember about this event right, and everything else doesn't bear up to a quick Wikipedia check".  It doesn't mean this or others movies aren't worth watching, but always always always Google the subjects of "true story" movies after finishing a film.  It's inevitably more interesting than what's in the movie.

I do not remember the 1988 Calgary Olympics at all.  I was 13 and lived in Texas where none of the sports existed, and didn't watch much TV at that time in my life.  Jamie was actually at those Olympics, so she remembers the actual events and guy.   I think I vaguely remember watching hockey.  

Eddie the Eagle (2015) is a fine movie - a decent one for kids and adults.  Unlikely guy goes to the Olympics to compete - and the glory is in trying.  I've spoiled nothing - you can still watch.  Everything is very color-by-numbers and has the edges removed.  I mean, it's fine - I enjoyed it for what it was.  





Saturday, January 2, 2021

2021 Watch: Johnny Mnemonic (1995)




Watched:  01/01/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Robert Longo


I saw this movie in 1995, and it was pretty terrible then.  It's really hard to put your finger on, but the closest comparison I can make is what happened/ happens with superhero movies when someone comes along and decides to use pieces of what's there, but doesn't really get it is about the thing that makes it work.  

Looking back at 1995, explaining what was going on in science-fiction, the rapid development of the internet, and how those two things intermingled - as well as who from the world of music, film and art and basically "got it" is mostly long since forgotten.  But, yeah, there was a time when we honestly thought people would basically use the internet like a great big VR simulation with avatars, "physical" items to look at using our headsets and manipulate haptic gloves.

And by "we" I mean * everyone* was excited about the internet and the cool toys until you actually tried to use the internet and it all fell apart upon first contact,  and you realized a mouse, keyboard and a decent monitor were terrific and cheap and got you where you needed to go.