Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dead Watch: Evil Dead 2

What to even say about Evil Dead 2?

I assume a good chunk of the folks who come to this page routinely will have already seen it, and the folks strolling by looking for Evil Dead II info are already in.  It's not like we're talking about either a new or particularly obscure movie.  If you haven't seen it and you can tolerate some gore, it's a worthy entry for your Halloween watching.

For all of the rest of us - it holds up now as well as it ever did.  So, you know, depending on what you already think, your mileage is just going to vary.

This is the Evil Dead Sam Raimi and Co. made after the success of The Evil Dead and the failure of Crimewave (I've never the latter film, but I know it tanked at the box office).

It's a movie that's ridiculously simple, and, given a second go at the idea, the crew improves on the original by abandoning the horror tropes that made the first entry just one more movie where something happens to high schoolers in a cabin in the woods and, instead, throws strangers together against the evil that's been unleashed.  It's an odd mish-mash of genre, from horror to action to slapstick, but I'd argue that it works pretty well.

It's no secret this isn't a direct sequel to The Evil Dead so much as a replacement for that movie.  Evil Dead 2 cannibalizes portions of the first movie to establish Ash, but makes way for everything else the movie wants to do, creating an all new cast of victims characters.

I'll never say anything bad about the movie because I don't think there's anything wrong with the movie.  I've never really gotten over the first time I saw it, in a good way.  I won't say it inspired me to go to film school or any of that, but it's a reminder that in the middle of splatter-fest horror movie, you should be enjoying yourself, or else I don't even know what you're doing watching the movie.

The only downside to the movie is that it's absolutely at it's best when it's just Bruce Campbell fighting the Evil Dead on his lonesome.  You can't really do that for a whole movie, but while it lasts, it's maybe one of my top 20 favorite scenes in any movie.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Anyone up for a "Masters of the Universe: The Movie" Live Tweet-a-Thon?

A few weeks ago Stuart alerted me to the fact that the 1980's He-Man live action movie, Masters of the Universe, was coming to Netflix.  He pitched a joint tweet-a-thon/ live-blogging of the movie, and I'm inclined to jump on this idea.

Now, I am aware that He-Man is something a lot of people take seriously, and it is something that I absolutely do not take seriously, so I expect this will be an interesting mish-mash of an evening if we do it.

So, if anyone wants to think about doing this, maybe even this coming Friday, say something in the comments.

Rocky Watch: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

So, Spring, Texas, as suburb of Houston, is pretty well situated along the Bible Belt.  Having had grown up mostly in Austin, a lot of what was a bit more flexible in perspective was, shall we say, of a more singular perspective when I got picked up and moved back to Spring a couple weeks shy of my sophomore year of high school.  It was a bit of an odd transition, and I'm not sure it ever took.

1990 saw the 15th Anniversary of the release of Rocky Horror, not knowing what it really was other than that it had midnight showings, I slipped it in the stack.

Now, it's true that my freshman year I was supposed to go see the movie one night with some friends who had parents who were, I guess, willing to drive us to the midnight show and back.  Little known fact:  Austin was one of the original locations where the midnight screenings took off as early as 1976, so its likely someone a bit more plugged in may have suggested the KareBear's youngest was a bit too fragile for the film, and the whole thing fell apart.  Age 40, I've still never been to amidnight screening.

But on VHS, nobody cared what I was watching.  We'd crossed the Rated-R threshold by accident when my mom took me to see Beverly Hills Cop somewhat by accident when I was 10 and my folks were dropping us off for Rated-R movies at the Showplace 6 by the time I was in 7th grade.*

There's the Jessica Jones I know and love (teaser for Marvel's "Jessica Jones")

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Univ. of Texas Longhorns Lose another heartbreaker (to Oklahoma State)

There's really no other way to say it.

This game was an exercise in frustration from all sides.  UT's offense was held to field goals and not much else.  The defense's secondary did much better than last week, eventually, and Vance Bedford's defensive squad also put two touchdowns on the board.

But the reffing was simply awful all around, impacting both teams, the mystery moving puzzle of last week's offense that seemed like the start of a bold new era was stopped at every turn by OSU's defense.  Jerrod Heard had some good plays, but the offensive line support he enjoyed last week seemed to evaporate and he showed he doesn't really see the defense all that well when he's in the pocket.

Nick Rose was actually really fine this week.  Did great.  Kudos to that kid for bouncing back when a lesser kicker would have been a mess.  Nope, that we left to our punter who, apparently, was thinking about a final, his date the night before, chicken nuggets, something, anything other than taking the snap on the 4th down and getting rid of the f'ing ball.

We'd been up for most of the game, a position no Texas fan really expected to find the team in, so the crappy way in which we lost the game was more than a smidge painful.  Especially as the refs called back two big TD plays on ticky-tacky penalties, called a nonsensical defensive holding call that impacted the 4th quarter play like no one's business (and was clearly offensive holding, you dumb zebra), called a penalty on Charlie Strong for protesting the shitty reffing.  Oh, and called a fumble for OSU when it was pretty clear that it was recovered by UT.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Christopher Reeve's 63rd Birthday

Today would have marked the 63rd birthday of actor and activist Christopher Reeve.

A child of the 1970's and 1980's, of course I am most familiar with Reeve from his portrayal of Superman, and I've seen the Reeve-starring Superman movies dozens of times.  I've seen a few of his other movies, such as Somewhere in Time, Village of the Damned, Noises Off..., The Remains of the Day and a few other appearances.

You forget, because of the broadness of the Superman films, but Reeve was a heck of an actor.  Just to do what he did with his dual roles of Superman and Clark Kent, in film, is worth checking out.  It's near Shakespearean.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sci-Fi Watch: Earth vs. The Flying Saucers

I go into most movies with high hopes, good ratings or no.  I already turned off one movie this week (Godzilla:  All Monsters Attack, because it was just kind of stupid, even for a Godzilla movie), and I wasn't going to give up on another.  I hate giving up on a movie.

I had never seen Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), but it's a seminal bit of sci-fi filmdom and a Ray Harryhausen FX work of note.  The problem is, I'll be blunt, the movie kind of blows.  And let this be a bit of forewarning to our friends in the Hollywood dream factory.  I'm not saying you have to make a movie with staying power - you can make your money and go on to your next project, but people might actually see your movies later, James Cameron and Avatar, and when the FX get dated, you better hope there's something else going on in front of the camera that isn't "the most realistic spinning saucer money can buy in 1956".

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

slow posting - blame Nathan C

Hi all.

Posting may be slow this week as I've been given a writing assignment by Nathan C.  This one is a ton of fun, but it's going to take a while.  No worries.  When I'm done, I'll share it here one way or another.

To cut to the chase, I'm getting to review a really nice BluRay set starring this fellow:

Turns out the set includes multiple cuts of the movie and varying audio tracks, including film historian commentary.  So, what should have been about a 2-hour viewing is now stretching into something like 8 hours.  Plus, however long it takes to write about all this at some point.

Anyway, I look forward to sharing, but I'm doing a little legwork at the moment.  Fortunately, it's all around a movie I already like quite a bit and topics around which I already have a casual interest.  Movies, film history, film preservation and distribution, patient zero influential films, and, of course, movie "monsters" and horror/ thrillers.

Y'all give it up for Mr. Chaney.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Happy 65th, Bill Murray

Today marks Bill Murray's 65th Birthday.  And while we never say it out loud, I'd posit that Bill Murray is one of the greatest actors of his generation.

People like Bill Murray, there's no question.  And his willingness to participate in surprising ways in films (see: the otherwise waste of a movie Zombieland) has become a bit of a calling card for him as he's made the very real realization that he is free to do as he likes, and movie-dom's acceptance that he's at his best when he's given a long leash.

Like a lot of my generation who were too young to stay up late enough for SNL, my first exposure to Murray was not the racy Caddyshack, which I didn't see until middle school, but the cultural megalith of Ghostbusters, which my mom took me to see opening day.*

I dig those early roles and his SNL stint.  Stripes.

Murray wasn't really pigeonholed from the start.  He did The Razor's Edge (no, I've never seen it), and never quite got locked into any particular character with which he became identified even as the roles became distinctly his own.  There's not a lot of similarities between Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters), Bob Harris (Lost in Translation), Bunny Breckinridge (Ed Wood), Frank Cross (Scrooged) or Raleigh St. Clair (The Royal Tenenbaums).

Probably my favorite role is from Rushmore as Herman Blume, the life-weary corporate mogul who is coming to terms with the failure of all parts of his life that aren't related to his business and finds a bit of a friend and inspiration and competition in Max Fischer.

If there is a thread between the parts, particularly his later roles, maybe it's the exhaustion the characters wear on their sleeve.  He gets what it means to be at the end of your rope, that it's not anger that sets in but, often, a sense of resignation.  Watching the characters climb back out against that point (or, in the case of Raleigh St. Clair, head towards that resignation) is what makes the performances interesting.  And, frankly, relatable.  Right up to and including Steve Zissou.

Here's to Bill on his 65th.  May the Garfield money have bought him many rounds of golf and a couple of good bottles of something.

*you're the best, Ma!  Dad, you still get point for getting me to many action movies, not the least of which is Empire Strikes Back opening weekend.  I haven't forgotten!

Jack Larson, TV's Jimmy Olsen, Merges With The Infinite

The Signal Watch is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jack Larson, who played Jimmy Olsen on the 1950's television series, The Adventures of Superman (1952-1958).

Over six seasons, Jack played the young Daily Planet reporter, leading to such a spike in Olsen's popularity that the character spun out of second-banana obscurity and landed his own comic book, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, that ran from 1954-1974.