Saturday, October 15, 2016
Halloween Watch: Critters (1986)
Back in the 1980's, I remember seeing a lot of movies like Critters (1986) on the shelf at the local home video rental shoppe. The boxes would show you a goblin sort of creature, and promised a certain level of horror that wasn't necessarily going to go in for splatter and gore of a Chainsaw variety or even a Freddy Kreuger level of scare. Maybe some broad humor in there, plots as basic as a Dukes of Hazzard episode. It was always maybe a little gorier than a modern PG-13 film, but, in retrospect, there's no question that these movies were basically aimed at kids with VCR's.
There's nothing wrong with it, but I wasn't a fan of the sub-sub-genre.
I don't think I was exactly aware the movie was aimed at me as a 12 year-old-or-so as I was when I saw this movie the first time at someone else's house. My recollection is that the kid was very excited about the movie Critters, and his dad showed up with the movie in hand "hey, I rented CRITTERS!" and I was like "y'okay..." whereas my pal couldn't have been more jazzed had we just been given a stack of fireworks to shoot off all night. He loved the movie, and I just settled in, because... what are you gonna do? So, I've seen it once before.
Point of fact - Jamie and I have been together 21 years this month, and I can't tell you how many times she's mentioned liking Critters as a kid. Or, I guess, watching Critters as a kid.
And so it came to pass that when I said "well, we need to watch something Halloween-ish", she tossed out Critters, and as she has never, ever previously stated a desire to watch any Halloween movie but Young Frankenstein, I just said "y'okay..."
So, we watched Critters.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Halloween Watch: Night of the Demon (1957)
Back when I was a little kid, Jason and I had a few books on movie monsters, and among them was the book Super-Monsters by Daniel Cohen.
On the cover of the book was a really pissed-off looking monster that I kind of assumed was an off-brand Godzilla-type thing (I didn't know the word "Kaiju" until college), and didn't think much about it except that I wasn't sure what movie this monster was actually associated with. Also, I don't know why my folks were like "hey, look, a snarling hell beast! The kids'll love it!", but this was the 1970's and back then we were still raising our kids to be ready for anything.
The book had short entries about the plots of various monster movies, and I can trace my interest in those strange creatures to this book. Even if this same book led me to believe Young Frankenstein was a very odd, badly made Frankenstein movie until I finally saw it and clued into the Mel Brooks canon.
But I had no idea who the monster was on the cover of this book until about 5-10 years ago when I stumbled across some information about the British horror film, alternately titled Curse of the Demon and Night of the Demon (1957). Last year I tried to watch this movie on or around Halloween, but realized I was exhausted and didn't pull it off. And then my DVR went crazy and I lost the recording.
But this year, SimonUK brought it over, and with Steanso in tow, we all gave the movie a whirl.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Cubs Win!!! Clinch 2016 National League Division Series
|Javier Baez pic from Chicago Tribune|
If my movie and TV watching has slowed, the Cubs have been playing the San Francisco Giants for the National League Division Series, and that's taken up some time. This evening they won the game 6-5, winning the series in four of five possible games.
I'm tired as I stayed up to watch the Cubs lose in the 13th inning last night, giving up in the middle of the 13th as it was past 1:30 AM.
But, tonight, when it looked like all was lost, in the 9th inning they came back with 4 runs and won the game!
I've selected a pic of Javier Baez, 2nd base for the Cubs, as he's been a superhuman this whole season, and his powers seem to just be growing in the post-season. The guy is incredible on both offense and defense.
All right. Bed time for me. Go Cubs!
Here's the link to the Tribune story on the game. The game was one for the ages. Seriously.
This was about an hour after the game ended in San Francisco...
Most of this crowd still here cheering. pic.twitter.com/i9DcbhnAhX— Colleen Kane (@ChiTribKane) October 12, 2016
Monday, October 10, 2016
I Don't Get It Watch: Back to the Future (1985)
I remember coming back to school after the summer of 1985 and a good chunk of my classmates were nuts over Back to the Future (1985). I'd seen it in the theater, but even of our own family, I think I liked it the least of the four of us. But I was a little surprised how much my peers liked the movie, and over the past ten years I've been even more surprised to find how much not just my own generation still celebrates the entire trilogy, but Millenials love the movies, too.
I won't say I didn't watch it over and over in the 1980's when it was on VHS or on cable. I've seen it at least 6 or 7 times. But it's been a long, long while.
The movie was on cable last weekend, and I gave it a spin for the first time in a long time, more or less to figure out what I'm missing when I watch the movie that everyone else is seeing. I want to make it clear: this is my deficiency, not anything I think all of you people are stupid for liking. As near as I can tell, there really isn't anything wrong with the movie. And Lea Thompson's many, many iterations of Lorraine over the trilogy - heck, within just this first movie - is pretty impressive.
This Moment in History: Trump is Basically the Bad Guy from "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo", Except Worse, and Trying to be President
This isn't a political blog or news blog. In general, I don't talk sex, religion or politics here because - while this is my personal website and journal and I reserve the right to write about whatever strikes my fancy - I've done this long enough to note what's worth it and what isn't, where I have something to add, or where I don't when it comes to putting things out to the public.
This year has been one for the record books, but it's also been one that's been coming for a long time. I see a lot of friends on Facebook saying "more people need to say X" or "be vocal about Y", and, yeah, I basically don't do that. Not on Facebook. Anyone who actually knows me knows where I stand on issues that are sometimes considered political and I hope they know where I stand on moral issues. But I'm about as likely to talk about my political preferences on Facebook as I am in mixed company at work.
I hadn't planned to write anything on this until the days just prior to the election while early voting was still underway. But, at long last, after two Presidential Debates in which a candidate for the dominant party of my state and who could, conceivably, take office, has proven he has no shred of decency, is likely to abuse his power, endanger my fellow countrymen and certainly the lives of anyone outside our borders - who has now sworn he would seek to put his political opponents behind bars - now seems like a damn good time to say something. I am disheartened by anyone who feels the need to impress Billy Bush with language reserved for 19 year-old virgins lying to their dorm-mates, but... c'mon. Trump's record to date has been one of hating everyone who wasn't a white male or a model who was willing to let him "move on her".
We're in an election cycle that, if you'd asked me in 2008 what I saw as a worst-case scenario for the election and we'd used a bracketing system to determine who I really didn't want to see running against each other - this would have been my doomsday scenario. But it's also the endgame of the trends in American politics that have been bubbling since before 2000, the longtail effect of splintered media and the echo chamber of social media.
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Oh my GOD Watch: Roar (1981)
Let's not screw around.
Why I wanted to watch this movie: it really, honestly features dozens of live big cats with minimal training, just sort of being big cats. And by big cats, I mean lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars, pumas... all in one film, all intermingled with actors trying to perform scenes both engaging with the animals and around the animals. The animals even get a screen-writing credit because, hey, animals gonna do what animals are gonna do - and that clearly drove the story.
It's not a freakshow, but it is absolutely nerve wracking to watch as every bit of your well-honed DNA of thousands of generations of ancestors starts screaming out at you that this is a very, very bad scene, even as the movie is insisting "we should learn to love the big cats and live in harmony with them."
Thanks to, I think, a Hollywood lifestyle bit I was watching about Tippi Hedren back around 2001, I'd been aware of the movie, but good luck finding it back then. Or much information about it. Just the casual mention of "oh, she has a lion sanctuary and this one time she made a feature film with dozens of wild big cats called 'Roar', so, anyway, she's Melanie Griffith's mom..."
It also features Speed director Jan de Bont as a cinematographer, and, apparently he was one of the 70 people injured working on the movie. And, in fact, de Bont was gravely injured when a lion took his scalp clean off his head.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Halloween Watch: Frankenstein (1931)
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
Signal Watch Reads: Breakout (a Parker novel, 2002)
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
Doc Watch: Vampira and Me (2012)
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
Bond Watch: For Your Eyes Only (1981)
|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.
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