Sunday, May 17, 2020
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Director: Michael Curtiz
It's pointless for a schlub blogger like me to get into writing much about Mildred Pierce (1945) - it's one of the best known and most written about movies out there, still a favorite among even the most casual of classic film fans. Anyway, there's no shortage of critical analysis out there about the film.
Monday, May 11, 2020
Every once in a while you read a comic that you know is just going to stick with you for a long, long time.
Novelist Neil Gaiman of course broke into the public consciousness through Sandman, the perennially popular comic series that, frankly, got me back into comics when I'd wandered off to spend my money elsewhere. What we don't talk about nearly enough is that, in addition to Gaiman's scripts and plots, he was paired with some of the finest artists to grace the business (you can thank editor Karen Berger), among them Colleen Doran.
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
To see a list of recommended comics and images of comics we talk about, visit: Kryptonian Thought-Beast!
Saturday, September 14, 2019
Format: Amazon Streaming
I wouldn't say this movie was mismarketed, exactly. But how reviews I read described it made it sound exceedingly joyless, but interesting. The premise held enough promise that I planned to get to it eventually, but wasn't in a mad dash to do so. However, Jamie watched it somewhere along the line when I was off at a breakdance party or whatever I do, and informed me it was very much in my wheelhouse, and, indeed, she was correct.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) is the true story of Lee Israel, an NYC based writer of bios of celebs of bygone eras (she's working on a Fanny Brice book during the movie's circa 1991 timeframe), which don't really sell, so she tries to hold copy-editing positions, etc... to pay the bills. But as a caustic, misanthropic drunk, turns out holding a job can be tough.
She becomes re-acquainted with a down-on-his luck bon vivant, played by the always-amazing Richard E. Grant (a charming drunk, here), just about the time she has some bills due (cat gets sick), and has to make some money, quick. Through a series of small discoveries, she learns of the world of memorabilia and letter collectors, and begins forging letters supposedly penned by luminaries long since passed, including everyone from Noel Coward to Louise Brooks.
Melissa McCarthy stars as Israel, and it's not exactly a revelation to see her this good - I think she's kinda brilliant as a comic actor, so seeing what she can do with a dramatic part was a "well, sure" revelation. She's always been so specific, with undercurrents and layers of sympathy, pathos, and thoughtfulness, even in goofy stuff like The Heat (which I really enjoy, y'all), doing same but for a dramatic role makes sense. And, it seems, the work done here by she and Grant earned them both Oscar nods.*
Because the arc of the film is fairly obvious, I'll refrain from spoilers. Instead, I'll just tip my hat to the actual technical work, character work, and script. Director Marielle Heller has a sparse directing and acting filmography, but seems to know how to get a performance, and I'm now doubly interested in the A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Mr. Rogers biopic coming, as she's the one wearing the puffy director's pants there, too.
I also quite liked the DP work by Brandon Trost, and almost laughed out loud seeing this is the same DP as the Crank movies, which I'll just let all of us ponder if we think we ever have someone's style nailed down.
Anyhoo... I'm just recommending this one. Give it a go.
*which... honestly, we should be expecting movies with these levels of performance in movies all the time, but that's reserved for TV these days.
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
I'm always going to support a movie that features Ida Lupino slinging back drinks, dropping snappy dialog and not exactly being coy about her interests. She's, however, just one of many name talents in While the City Sleeps (1956), an ensemble drama about the women and men at work in a major metropolitan newspaper. Directed by Fritz Lang, this one features: Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell, John Drew Barrymore, Sally Forrest and more, all bringing their A-game and making for a fun, unsentimental look at how the sausage is made in the big news game.
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing: 7th? Unknown
I know I throw a lot of soft recommendations around, saying "oh, you might like this" or "it's worth catching", but The Asphalt Jungle (1950) was one of those hit-me-like-lightning movies the first time I watched it, and, in a lot of ways, I've been chasing that same high ever since. That viewing was way back in college from a rented tape on a 20" TV, and I've seen and owned various copies of the film ever since. Frankly, when I just looked up the movie on this blog, I assumed I'd written it up 3 or 4 times, but, instead, I'm just finding mentions of it tucked into other posts. So, it's been a while.
In some ways, in 2019 there's little new in The Asphalt Jungle - the film is one of those that reset the path for heist movies and created the template from which heist movies would flow from then til now. But for a movie popping up just a few years after World War II, and because of the influence, it feels shockingly modern (especially for modern TV more than movies, which are largely toothless in comparison these days). It's 3/5ths getting to and getting through the heist, and 2/5ths things going wrong and the fallout as our ensemble tries to sort out the mess they're in.
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Format: Alamo South Lamar
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight, during which Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins reached the moon and during which Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to ever walk the surface of our satellite.
This evening, JuanD, Jamie and I hit the local cinema to take in the spectacle that is Apollo 11 (2019), and if you can tear yourself away from whatever new shows got dumped on Hulu and Netflix on Friday, I'm going to go ahead and recommend you give this movie a go.
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
ALERT! Danger: Diabolik is now available streaming in HD on Amazon Prime.
Now - you can watch this movie ANY TIME, and 2018 has finally redeemed itself.
Well, that and Giant Cow.
Monday, December 3, 2018
Viewing: Unknown. 6th?
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
First of all, "The Killing" that occurs in this movie is not an assassination. It could refer to about five or ten different things, and I suppose that's intentional. I'd start with "they're gonna make a killing on this heist", but, of course, this is a 1950's-era heist movie, so you know it's not ending in sunshine and flowers.
The Killing (1956) sits on a curious edge when it comes to crime dramas/ noir. Marking maverick, young filmmaker Stanley Kubrick's first foray into studio-backed cinema, the movie feels part and parcel of the noir movement with a structure and an ending not atypical for a dime-store crime novel, retaining those rough edges that some noir eschewed. As much as I like The Asphalt Jungle and Rafifi - likely The Killing had more impact and reflects more of where the heist genre would go - especially in American cinema (at least marginally).
Friday, July 13, 2018
With Emmy nominations now announced (GLOW received a few, including Best Comedy) and a few weeks passed since the second season arrived, it feels fair to talk a bit - but in no way comprehensively - about the show.
So... Every once in a while when I'm watching GLOW, the fictionalized show about a real women's wrestling show that aired in the 1980's, I think about the Coen Bros. film, Barton Fink.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Joëlle Jones
Inks (Chapter One): Sandu Florea
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Editor: Paul Kaminski
Thursday, August 10, 2017
It has been a long, long time since I've talked much about Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby, but when I came across a black and white collection back in late 90's, one of that series one of New Gods, the comics hit my psyche like a runaway freight train.
I'll talk more about Kirby's Mister Miracle and New Gods soon (I'll be doing my own salute to King Kirby before his 100th), but today I want to suggest you guys get onboard with the new Mister Miracle series by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, which hit shelves on Wednesday.
I admit, I've not read the duo's other work to date, though I've been meaning to pick up their Vision series for at least a year. But...
As comics keep relaunching with new #1's, I'd suggest that both publishers and creators take note: this is how one starts a series.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
These days, I'm not writing up every movie I've seen. And I'm not going to write up this one. But I'm suggesting you catch this one while it's still in theaters.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
You'll hear a lot about how 90's comic books were all about Chromium covers, Rob Liefeld and . There's some truth to that. But that's like saying 90's music was all Garth Brooks and Hootie and the Blowfish. The 90's brought us Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, and a host of others who came to comics mostly via the guiding hand of Karen Berger and the Vertigo imprint.
Titles like Hellblazer, Kid Eternity and Invisibles kept me in comics when I was hitting that crucial point where I might have moved on. And, totally honestly, had I not stumbled across the "Ramadan" issue of Sandman during the final months of my senior year of high school, I suspect me and comics were headed for a bitter break-up.
Part of that break-up was what was happening in the X-Men titles, which had lost the guiding hand of Chris Claremont, whose writing I was ready to leave behind, I suspect, but who had created multi-dimensional characters in a way that, to this day, I cannot believe comics in general haven't learned from.
FX's new series, Legion, is going to confuse folks who head to the comic shop to find issues of the series, or a nice trade paperback. The character, David Haller, appeared briefly in a few runs of various X-books dating back to the mid-1980's, including his first appearances in the surprisingly weird New Mutants title, giving Chris Claremont's writing and the artistry of Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin, Stray Toasters, numerous other projects) co-creator status.
Monday, June 6, 2016
Maria Bamford has been around the comedy scene, stand up and character performing, for some time. I can remember stand-up clips of a very young Bamford on basic cable in the late 90's, and a general awareness of who she was despite the fact I'm not one of those folks who follows comedy the way some people follow music. But, she had a unique voice (literally and metaphorically) from the time she came out of the gate.
In 2005 she appeared as part of the documentary, The Comedians of Comedy, which followed comedians Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Zach Galifianakis and Maria Bamford as they toured the country playing, basically, rock clubs. And I remember watching the film and being deeply concerned for Bamford during the entire movie. They sort of tried to play it off as "Maria keeps to herself. Maria's an introvert," but the movie basically gave up on trying to get her to participate, and so she became a kind of non-entity within the film.
In 2012, on the heels of Louis CK figuring out people would pay him directly for content and the rise of Kickstarter, Maria Bamford also had a special "The Special Special Special", which I paid to Ms. Bamford to download. And if you've never seen The Special Special Special, it's kind of amazing. She basically does an entirely new set for her parents from inside her living room. And I guess it was while watching that show, or around that time, that I learned she'd had some sort of mental breakdown. And, it seemed, doing this special was Phase 1 of her getting her feet back under her, professionally.
She appeared in the Netflix season of Arrested Development (as someone playing Sue Storm in a knock-off Fantastic Four), and held her own with that cast, which is no mean feat. And, as she has always done, she's toured relentlessly. I see she's in Austin for the Moontower Comedy festival every year (going on now. She was on local drive-time radio just this morning), and I think she's here more than that - but I haven't been to see stand-up since a semi-traumatic family outing when I was in college.*
But from the first few minutes of the first episode of Lady Dynamite (now streaming on Netflix), it feels like someone has finally properly placed the megaphone to Bamford's mouth and given her the proper stage where it's not just her freaking out the squares doing her stand-up or trying to fit into someone else's mold of how entertainment is supposed to work. The show is Bamford's world, and it's - for once (and people say this a lot, but I think it's a safe bet it's true here) - a unique perspective.
Not many shows out there are a sitcom recounting the protagonist's real-life struggles with mental illness. And making it understandable, sympathetic, and honest-to-god hilarious.
Monday, May 9, 2016
Here's what I know after reading Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture (2016) - I would love to spend a couple hours at a bar with author Glen Weldon knocking back a couple of cocktails and talking comics.
The book is a perfect compliment to the sort of discussion we've been having here at The Signal Watch the past few years, from our Gen-X Recollection Project (still ongoing! Send in your posts!), to trying to contextualize what we see in movies of the past and present as seasoned dorks.
As a matter of course, I've read a few Superman retrospectives, but very few feel like an honest conversation. Les Daniels' works read like what they are - honest if fairly sanitary historical accounts of the rise of Superman in all media. The very-well-selling Larry Tye book felt like a lot of research into something the author felt would move books but for which he had little personal affinity and seemed surprised that Superman wasn't the character he remembered from his years watching The Adventures of Superman. Author Tom De Haven has the strangest relationship with Superman, having written a full novel re-imagining the character from the ground up (in ways that often seemed far, far off the mark), and then a sort of retrospective that made it clear - he kinda hates Superman.
But aside from Les Daniels and a few excerpts in books like Ten Cent Plague and Men of Tomorrow, I haven't read up as much on Batman. I actually heard of author Glen Weldon when he put out a book called Superman: The Unauthorized Biography. I purchased the book, but hadn't read it as I had a stack of books I was making it through. Still haven't read it, honestly, aside from the first few pages, which had me cackling in recognition of someone who truly knew their Superman. But, two days after I picked up the Superman book, Weldon announced on twitter his Batman book was coming, and as I'd just finished the Tye Superman book, I figured - I'll just wait for that one.
I really can't recommend Caped Crusade enough. This is a "run, don't walk" sort of recommendation.
Monday, April 25, 2016
I started watching this doc thinking I'd make it maybe 15 minutes in, get bored, and move on with my life. But, really, my primary complaint about the film is that it seems like it could have run an additional 30 minutes or so, delving into more of the impact of Cannon Films on popular culture and where the movies found their audiences, and not ever felt like it was running long.
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) is exactly what you see in the title. It's a doc about the rise and fall of the independent movie studio responsible for an ungodly amount of the types of movies suburban kids consumed by the truckload back in the 1980's - particularly when our folks were off doing other things and not paying much attention to what we were watching. Cannon was responsible for just a tremendous number of movies of all genres, and for a kid back in the 1980's, it was pretty typical to go rent a movie, come home, throw it in the VCR and see the Cannon logo scroll out before you.
The basic hook of the movie is that Cannon was fast, cheap and out of control. They were making movies fast and furious, producing what they assumed was crowd-pleasing stuff, leaving decorum, taste and craftsmanship behind as they raced to give us an endless supply of films loaded with violence, nudity, ridiculous plots and a way to kill a couple of hours on a Saturday night. They gave us everything from Breakin' parts 1 and 2 to The Last American Virgin to American Ninja to Bolero to Invasion USA to Masters of the Universe to Over the Top, and dozens and dozens of movies in between. If you're over the age of 35 or so, it's highly likely you raised yourself on a steady diet of their output running on cable or from the local Mom & Pop video rental shop.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
As kids, most of us caught Disney's post-Walt release of The Jungle Book, based upon the works of famed British writer Rudyard Kipling. When it comes to Kipling, I have no real opinions. After all, I've never Kippled.
But thanks to a love for Disney animation and Jamie's deep fondness for the movie, I've seen the 1967 cartoon a number of times. It's not my favorite Disney animation, and my appreciation for the movie swings between adoration and annoyance, depending upon the sequence. Balloo = Yes. Kaa = irritation.
It does have one of the strongest sing-along soundtracks of any of the movies, and is up there with the best when it comes to "Bear Necessities" and "I Want To be Like You", even if the latter is in a portion of the movie I found just kind of confusing as a kid.
But it's also got an underrated villain in Shere Khan.
I've also seen the 1990's Jason Scott Lee version of the movie (but don't remember it in the slightest), and a good portion of a 1942 release, which is much better than you'd guess.
I wanted to be skeptical of this version, but Jon Favreau's name was attached as director. As goofy and normal as Favreau comes off in his roles and in interviews, he's a smart guy and already turned into as solid a director as you were going to find way back when he put out Elf, and then two Iron Man movies in a row that I quite liked (yes, I like Iron Man 2. Shut up.).
But, man, that's some tough source material, and these days, when it comes to family entertainment, the forces at work seem to be a mix of risk-averse accountants, shrieking parents groups terrified their kids might find out how things work outside their carefully helicoptered environs and a fear of being seen as anything less than a perfect exemplar of safety first. The idea of a story taking place in a world ruled by tooth and claw seems like it would catapult this kind of story into the same PG-13 arena as the Marvel superheroes.
The first trailer made me more skeptical than excited, but a very recent trailer that came out maybe a week or two before the film's release turned me around a bit, and, of course, I was cheered by a very positive Rotten Tomatoes score (floating around the mid-90's last I checked).
I'll be honest, I loved this movie.
Saturday, April 2, 2016
I hadn't watched Shane (1953) in more than a decade. Even the DVD I have is clearly a relic from the beginning of the DVD era. If I hadn't watched the movie in a while, it seems that Jamie does not care for Shane, and that's one of those things that you're going to have to endure if you want to stay married.
For my dollar, Shane is one of the great westerns, one of those stories of the expansion into the west and foretelling other great Western stories that explore the nature and fate of the gun-fighter like The Unforgiven, Beyond the loose definition of the Western genre, it's also, simply, a great film. Beautifully shot, well-acted, nuanced and better than you likely remember.
Contextually, the book the movie was based on and faithfully adapted from (and which JAL and I read in class in 7th grade if memory serves) was released in 1949, four years after the closing of WWII. That the book was told in a first-person perspective from the eyes of a child and the movie mostly retains that POV, makes sense. At it's heart, the story speaks to the naivete of what we see when we look at violence as an heroic act, of putting the gunman on a pedestal - as both writers of Western novels and Hollywood have always done. In 1949 and 1953, one can imagine all the GI's returning from WWII who had to endure the questions of both the folks who had seen the war from newsreels and kids who saw it as a comic-book adventure against cartoonish Japs and Krauts.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
I've lost track of how many times I've seen Gun Crazy (1950). And, in fact, over the past ten years its easily become one of my favorite movies. Tuesday night JAL and I met up at the Alamo to catch a screening which was, it turned out, part of a series the Alamo was doing about social issues in movies. And, of course, Gun Crazy is as good an example of how a good gun owner gets sucked into the issues of a bad gun owner as you're like to see.
The screening was either sold out or nearly so, which, even in a small theater at The Alamo on a Tuesday at 7:30 - for a movie that's now 66 years old - is a pretty good thing. What was truly surprising was that the screening was of a 35mm print struck in the 1960's, as near as I could tell.