Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Noir/ Crawford Watch: Sudden Fear (1952)
We're watching the new FX series, Feud: Bette and Joan (highly recommended), and it reminded me I'd been meaning to watch Sudden Fear (1952), a noirish potboiler starring Ms. Crawford, Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame.
Just the casting alone was enough to raise an eyebrow. Of course I've seen a number of Grahame's pictures, a handful of Crawford's, but when it comes to Jack Palance, I've seen Batman, Shane and, sigh, his pair of 80's City Slickers comedies.* And to see him in a movie where he has to act like a basically normal, functioning human was almost bizarre. Because by the time I was a kid, even in real life Jack Palance was acting like a cartoon weirdo.
It's a strong, taught thriller with some great cinematography, tremendous use of sound and Crawford putting it all out there as she does a large amount of her acting completely alone.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Ape Watch: Kong - Skull Island (2017)
Box office numbers will give me the answer to the question "was anyone really wanting a new King Kong movie, let alone a re-imagined one?" Because I really don't know. Our theater was near sold out, but I had the distinct impression it was full of the kinds of movie goers who think picking what movie they'll see ahead of time is a waste of time - you just buy tickets for whatever is starting next.
King Kong, like Frankenstein, is one of those movie concepts that bled out into the pop culture to such a degree - it's just part of the cultural lexicon. This in spite of the fact very few folks you talk to have actually sat through the original films. But the imagery of both has become so iconic, the concepts both bizarre and yet easy to grasp and the metaphor so accessible... we all get it. Giant apes and flesh golems tend to stick in the mind.
Weirdly, Kong: Skull Island (2017) arguably throws away all of that metaphor, telling a different story. No more Ann Darrow, no John Driscoll, no showboating Carl Denham. No more "'twas Beauty who killed The Beast." This is a 1970's-era landing on Skull Island by a mix of government scientists and soon-to-be-done Army soldiers, rotating out of Vietnam and a whole lotta explosions.
The end result is also something altogether different, and that alone can take some getting used to. You're in for two hours of fast-moving excitement, a razor thin script, name actors without much to do, and a Vietnam known only via high-profile filmic depictions. All in all, Kong: Skull Island (2017) is maybe not what I was expecting, but it is visually stunning, entertaining, contains some pretty amazing FX and action sequences, and if you don't have a bunch of people talking behind you, is going to keep you glued to the screen for the run-time of the movie.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Friday Non-Post: Enjoy the Silence
|here, for no reason, is Lynda Carter on skates|
Sorry about the lack of posting - if, indeed, you noticed my rate of posting has slowed. We're all fine here.
I'll have a link to a review I did for Texas Public Radio up in the next 48 hours or so. That was a fun one, so I look forward to sharing.
We've also hit that late-winter/ spring-time period where all our shows are on and so I'm not watching many movies. Everything from The Flash to The Americans is currently running (no pun intended), plus I've got an episode or two of Twin Peaks left.
No, I haven't seen Logan. I thought that movie was coming out in May or something and wasn't paying that much attention. The X-films haven't really been my bag for a while. It's supposedly pretty good, so I'll fix that next week if I can.
Yes, I have tickets to see Kong: Skull Island. I will have seen it by late Saturday night.
I'm currently listening to the audiobook of Altered Carbon, and I'll have plenty to say on that when I wrap it up. And I've been listening to podcasts of You Must Remember This and am making my way through the HUAC/ Blacklist episodes. There's something that suddenly feels a whole lot more present.
Anyway, hope you're all well.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Robert Osborne Goes to that Movie House in the Great Beyond
Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne has merged with The Infinite.
I was pretty much convinced that Robert Osborne was a robot. It didn't matter what time of day or night I switched on Turner Classic Movies, if a movie wasn't playing, he was providing an intro or outro in a smooth, polished, knowledgeable manner, like the best film prof you never had. In theory he was the prime-time host, but for several years in there, I literally remember no one else.
I mean, sure, it was just a few minutes per movie, but those need to be written, shot, etc... and it was clear he was pretty hands-on with all aspects. Including the phenomenal interviews he wrangled with innumerable Hollywood icons, and later as he'd co-host series with modern luminaries reflecting back on whatever run of movies they were about to show. And he always got to the nut of what made the film special both writ large and what made fans (these modern film stars) so passionate about the movie.
Bond Watch: The World is Not Enough (1999)
If all you've heard about The World is Not Enough (1999) is that Denise Richards is hopelessly miscast and bad at the whole acting bit, well, yes. That's a good chunk of what you'll want to know before entering into this particular Bond flick.
I'd never seen this movie before because, by 1999, I was not going to see a Bond movie that was starring Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist. And maybe that was a good instinct. Unfortunately I do think I missed out on a few good Bond scenes. Maybe not the most exciting Bond plot of all time (there's a part in the middle that positively drags), and the post-Michelle Yeoh hangover is sorely felt.
The plot is overly intricate, even for a Bond movie, to the point where I literally didn't know what was going on, who people were, etc... because I checked my phone for a minute. I caught up eventually, but by then Denise Richards was in the movie and that was... man. She is not good.
Once again Bond winds up chasing around renegade nukes (if anything should have taught us what a bad idea it is to have nuclear weapons, it would have been these movies and the propensity for these weapons to wind up in villainous hands) after a bunch of stuff about a billionaire guy's daughter getting kidnapped, Bond going to support her in Azerbaijan (her mother was Azerbaijani, her father British), and get her father's oil pipeline completed. She'd freed herself from some terrorists led by Robert Carlyle playing a superhuman Russian, etc... et al. It's complicated.
It's also all a bit forgettable. What you will remember is the stunning boat chase along the Thames, Denise Richards' boob-tacular scientist wear*, and bizarrely outfitted helicopters (which are apparently entirely real). And, they were introducing John Cleese as the all-new Q as Desmond Lleyelyn was retiring (he actually died a month after this movie was released).
Look, I'm also not the world's biggest fan of Robert Carlyle, and I felt like his character got a shit-ton of set-up, and then the movie did too little with the idea. After Jonathan Pryce's megalomaniacal media overlord, this seems like small potatoes (even though the potential bodycount is also in the millions, should Bond fail). I did like the primary Bond girl in the film (not Denise Richards) played by Sophie Marceau, but her storyline takes, like, forever to unfold.
I dunno. I do know this plot is less ludicrous than what's coming in the next film.
*speaking of boobs - while Ms. Marceau is a beauty to behold, physics suggest to me that she's been dealt some unfortunate Photoshopping in the above poster.
*trust me, this is hilarious if you work on a college campus
Saturday, March 4, 2017
SW Reads: Ask The Parrot (a Parker Novel by Richard Stark, 2006)
Ask The Parrot (2006) is the penultimate Parker novel. Frankly, I'd been dreading hitting this book based on the title alone, which sounded like one of those caper novels that would get turned into a movie with Dennis Farina that was funny, but not *that* funny, and mostly forgettable.
It's a strange, small book, playing well to several of Stark's strengths and his interest in exploring multiple characters and POV's in a single book. He sticks with the winning formula, maintaining a limited omniscient narrator's voice but using the 3rd section of the book to jump from person to person in the situation, setting up what would happen in the explosive fourth portion of the novel when everything comes together to fall apart.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
"Legion" on FX - Breaking out of the Superhero Box
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.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
BatLego Watch: The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Y'all have already seen this one, so no lengthy post here. But that was a really fun movie, and maybe the best intro to the full range of Bat-dorkiness from DC Comics, the movies, the TV shows...
That was just a blast.
And, now I need a lot of white and crystal Lego, because I really want to build a Lego Fortress of Solitude.
Bill Paxton Merges With The Infinite
Like all of you, we were saddened to hear of the unexpected passing of actor Bill Paxton.
Paxton became a favorite back in the mid-80's when we first saw Aliens in which he played Private First Class Hudson, the resident smart-ass of the squad of Colonial Marines sent in to investigate the situation on Acheron (aka LV-426). After that, we recognized him as Chet in Weird Science and the punk guy who maybe shouldn't have picked a fight with a naked Arnie in Terminator.
Paxton was always a welcome name to see show up in the credits of any film, and you always knew you were getting something memorable out of him. He didn't have many blockbuster starring roles outside of Twister, but he continued to provide outstanding performances in supporting roles and found a lead role that worked well for him in HBO's polygamy drama, Big Love.
We'll miss Paxton. To say he went too soon is a tremendous understatement, and I think all of us expected him to continue to appear on our screens for decades to come.
But let us never forget that he also directed and starred in the video for Barnes & Barnes classic "Fish Heads".
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