Tuesday, October 4, 2016
My Halloween viewing is a little slowed by the arrival of Luke Cage on Netflix, but Sunday night TCM presented a Frankenstein Triple Feature. They'll be showing Frank movies all October on Sundays (and Christopher Lee, star of the month on TCM, will be Mondays, so check for Hammer Horror).
This year marks the 85th Anniversary of the release of James Whale's screen classic, Frankenstein (1931). So, I appreciate the Franken-centric approach to Halloween that TCM is going for all month long.
Turner Classic kicked it off right with the three Frankenstein pictures that defined the monster and mad scientists for the 20th and early 21st Centuries. They showed the Universal movies that started with the 1931 Universal feature, Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff as "The Monster". Then, of course, TCM went right into Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein.*
I've seen Frankenstein numerous times since first watching the film back in college, and I've written on the topic often enough that I've given Frankenstein it's own tag on the site. I'm a fan, and I watch the movie at some point every October.
Monday, October 3, 2016
This was the Parker novel I accidentally skipped when I grabbed Nobody Runs Forever off the shelf and plowed through that one. While I was more than able to follow Nobody Runs Forever - the books are episodic enough that you can tell Stark never counted on anyone having had read the other books, let alone in order - thematically, this book points toward Parker's state in life, and maybe something author Richard Stark realized was far more inevitable in the early 00's than in 1962 when Parker first walked across a bridge into New York. By 2002, technology had made heisting far harder, the work of cops far more efficient, and the likelihood of escape from a high-profile job that much harder to swallow for the general public.
So, Breakout (2002), is less about a heist and, instead, about Parker getting caught by the law and the difficulties of extracting himself from the situation as complication after complication rears up. You can almost see how Stark/Westlake might have wanted to use the concept for comedic purposes - the almost insane domino effect of getting compromised within first two or three pages, with nothing following going particularly well. The premise could make for a trials of Job situation or it was going to make for a white-knuckle thriller and Stark chose the latter.
Sunday, October 2, 2016
At some point, you start to notice that actors have a limited shelf-life in Hollywood. As the years pass, those talented girls you found so attractive in movies just stop appearing in anything, even though they were kind of a big deal and in quite a few pictures for a stretch there. The birth of IMDB really brings the idea home if you do what I do mid-way through most movies and start checking up on actors you're enjoying in a movie but haven't seen in much else - where did they go? There's almost always a petering out of roles and then *poof* some final role and then nothing. They threw in the towel rather than play yet another character called "So-and-So's Mom" or the equivalent. Some go on to other lives (Justice Bateman just got her CS degree. I mean, talk about a kick-ass second chapter), some marry well, and some - even screen legends like Veronica Lake - have sad, obscure ends that don't ever seem to get remembered.
But that's not the sort of Hollywood messed up story that Vampira and Me (2012) tracks. That's a story of illusion, delusion and the disposable nature of fame for (especially) female actors when a dream is realized in part, but is taken away.
It's hard to call the movie a documentary, exactly, and it certainly isn't journalism. It feels like a bit of a memoir, an apology and a posthumous plea for sympathy for a third-tier icon most people have never heard of or forgotten about except as a shadowy Halloween-type bit of imagery not associated with anything in particular.
Saturday, October 1, 2016
|somewhere, a visual design graduate student is madly scribbling about this poster in their thesis|
If memory serves, For Your Eyes Only (1981) was the first Bond movie I ever watched. I seem to recall my Dad watching it on television a couple years after it came out, probably around 1983, and I felt like I was watching exciting action meant for adults. After all, Star Wars did not feature guys on motorcycles with nails in the wheels or exciting ski chases.
I've seen the movie two or three times since then, and my general impression was "this is one of the better Bond films". I recall my delight at the tiny-yellow car in the car chase during my middle-school viewing of the movie and as scenes came up during this viewing, I was quite pleased to see the scenes pop up, because I'd forgotten them over time, washed away in a haze of Bond-ness.
But I really like this Bond film. For Your Eyes Only feels like a sane reaction to the excesses of Moonraker, maybe even feeling some influence from the Bond of the novels (of which I've only read two and am nowhere near an expert). The task Bond is sent on feels grounded very much in a possible reality - to figure out what happened to a sunken British boat that was carrying their secret encoder/ decoder for nuclear weapons comms. It's not "where's our spaceship?" And the flow between scenes isn't haphazard, there's a logical progression to the unfolding of the mystery.
|so, not even the poster copy writer watched this movie past the two minute mark|
Sometimes you stumble onto greatness. Or, you know, stumble onto... something.
TCM Underground is the late-shift at Turner Classic Movies, given a two-movie window starting at 2:00 AM Eastern on Saturday nights. I don't watch it all that often, but have been known to check it out from time to time.
Last week, after wrapping up Vampyros Lesbos, I was flipping channels and was curious about the title and then the description of Night Train to Terror (1985). Something about "God and Satan play chess with the lives of mortals while on a train." I mean - that's going to be worth investigating no matter what.
Add in some surprise casting including Cameron Mitchell, Richard Moll and John Phillip Law, and you're in for a treat!
There's no easy way to say "this movie promised some sex and nudity, and vampires, and so I watched it" - so let's go ahead and get that out of the way.
I was sent a list of "movies that are basically not great, kind of smutty and horror movies", and on that list was a movie I'd intended to watch for quite some time as it often pops up in discussions of Italian horror directors - and that movie is Franco's Vampyros Lesbos (1971).
I'm not sure this film is ground zero for the lesbian vampire sub-sub-genre, which is definitely a thing when you consider everything from Daughters of Darkness to The Hunger, (this list rightfully points to the first Dracula sequel, Dracula's Daughter as having not so subtle undertones) - but it is, by far, the least subtley titled of all lesbian vampire films.
To be clear - it's not soft-core porn. It is a legit erotic horror movie.
It is also very not good.
Monday, September 26, 2016
I re-watched Captain America: Civil War because I bought the BluRay.
In general, I like this movie quite a bit. But I've written on it twice this year, so that seems like plenty.
The image above appears on a t-shirt my mother purchased for me. She's generous to a fault, but she usually is on the side of "you have plenty of Super-America Man stuff" which is usually followed by an unprompted "Poor Jamie" and a look of pity tossed Jamie's way.
But... My mom bought me this. I wear it all the time because - yeah, I like it fine on its own, but sometimes it really is the thought that counts.
I hadn't watched Moonraker (1979) since middle-school. My recollection of watching the movie included three things: the opening parachuting sequence (which is the best part of the movie), it had Jaws running around in it, and the ending feeling like it had been imported from a completely different franchise.
Straight up - I'm not sure that this is literally the worst Bond movie - finishing the series will tell me that. But this is my personal least favorite Bond movie as of this writing and has been since I saw it the one time previously.
All this is frustrating coming right on the heels of one of my favorite Bond movies (The Spy Who Loved Me), especially as they abandon the tone of danger and adventure with light comedy that movie employed and turn this movie, essentially, into a Roadrunner cartoon with Jaws in the role of Wile E. Coyote. It's kind of mystifying.
Friday, September 23, 2016
I'd been wanting to see The Split (1968) for a while. Based upon one of my favorite Parker novels, The Seventh, it also starred Jim Brown, pro-football superstar turned movie star (and a generally much better presence on the big screen than you generally get out of other former athletes*). I wasn't aware of the pedigree of the cast for this movie which is all but forgotten. But when you have a movie with Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Julie Harris, Jack Klugman, Warren Oates, Gene Hackman, Diahann Carroll... and people don't remember it?
Well, it's not a great sign.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
The last time I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I was about 15 and had a fairly hard time keeping up with a narrative that wasn't an easily digestible Isaac Asimov plot and which didn't work with a Bradbury-esque flow to carry me over the rough patches. I didn't know anything about Philip K. Dick other than that he was the name of the guy who wrote the book upon which they'd based Blade Runner, at the time one my new favorite movies (and, of course, still a favorite). But, I had heard the novel and movie were different.
I really don't know why I decided it was time to read the book again other than that, like most books I read 25+ years ago, my memories of the details were fuzzy. I mostly remembered feeling that - as screwed as the Rick Deckard of the film had been, the Deckard of DADoES? was in a far more precarious state. I recalled a "fake" police station, Roy Batty seemed less a threat, and the world of the novel existed in a state of decay that went well beyond even the night-time drizzling menace of the film.
It's not that I had a hard time understanding the story from an A to B to C to D perspective, but Dick's books always seem to be doing what science-fiction can do intensely well, and that's act as allegory for some more universal story or truth or as a thought experiment to explore those ideas. I'm sure I got it in that "I read what was on the page" sort of way, but there was no way for me to really relate. Add in my trouble reconciling the differences between the book and movie and expecting the themes and plot to better dovetail, and it was a recipe for forgetting a lot of what was interesting or special about the book as repeated Blade Runner viewings had quashed a lot of what I might have remembered.
Upon a re-read, I'd argue you need to see the two narratives as separate and attempting different stories with different meaning. There are certainly resonant thematic issues, but in making many of the changes Ridley Scott and Co. went with, Blade Runner is far more a product of expectations of films (no matter which cut we're discussing), of roles within films, and the limited running time of a movie and what can be in that story.