Saturday, June 29, 2019

Adventure Watch: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)



Watched:  06/27/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  4th or 5th
Decade:  1930's

Flat out, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) is one of the most influential and best adventure films ever made.

Everything that came before it led up to it, and everything after stands in its shadow.  If you think superhero movies pitting quippy rogues in brightly colored outfits standing up against despotic thugs grasping for power is a new thing, my friend, have I got a movie for you.

Even by modern standards the film is a marvel - maybe especially so.  There's no wires, no wire removal, no CGI versions of Errol Flynn leaping onto a horse with his hands tied behind his back.  That's just dudes in tights doing some crazy stunts for your entertainment.  And it's far from just Flynn - it's an army of actors and performers jumping out of trees, swinging on ropes, and buckling swashes.  The pacing is rapid, especially for 1938, and sets the standard for today's adventure movies, but the dialog is 95% better than most films of its type - intentionally cheesy in many parts, lots of "look, we're pretending to be Ye Olde British People", but - at its heart - the movie will always resonate, as will the story of Robin Hood, of standing up for a nation and all people over the avarice and cruelty of those who would crush others to live with more than they can ever use.

As you can guess, the silent era figured out that you could get in audiences with wild stunts - actions speaking louder than title cards, after all.  Douglas Fairbanks was one the great stars of the era, his Zorro and other characters bouncing all over the screen, jumping off and on horses, swinging from anything that could bear their weight.  It's a hell of a thing to watch, and still absolutely thrilling.  1938 is only a decade into the sound era, and here you can see that the language of sound film has found its form.  Add in the fact this is in technicolor, popping off the screen, and that Flynn is the definition of "handsome fellow", and it's a movie that takes advantage of everything it's got.

One of those things is Olivia deHaviland, who plays the role of the Maid Marian.  This Marian isn't already charmed by the rogue-ish Robin, but is won over by realizing his true loyalty to England, the same which he's inspired in his men, and how he is true to his mission.  He's not just robbing to gather a ransom to free his King, he's also caring for the injured and battered who can't fight alongside him.  She has her moments of action within the confines of the story and era, and while she'll be given a side-eye perhaps by modern audiences, man, for the time, it's a cheeky role.

We also get Claude Rains as Prince John (just perfectly foppish), Basil Rathbone as utter dirtbag Sir Guy of Gisbourne, and the always wonderful Una O'Connor as Bess - Maid Marian's lady in waiting.  And, of course, dozens more. 

If you've never seen the movie, I can't recommend it enough.  It'll genuinely make you wonder why, between this and the Disney version, the past thirty years we've been handed somber, depressing versions of the story.  Part of the joy of the movie is Robin Hood's joy and good humor in the face of danger.  He's not an anti-hero out for vengeance, he's a hero in search of justice.  And Maid Marian.

So get ready for sword battles, archery, skullduggery and men in tights leaping from trees. 

I give it five thumbs up.


Marvel Re-Re-Watch: Captain Marvel (2019)


Watched:  06/28/2019
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Third
Decade:  2010's

You'd think I'd have less to say on a third viewing of the movie, but I was genuinely surprised how much more I liked this film on a third viewing.  In many ways, I now think the ad campaign for Captain Marvel and my prior knowledge of the character really got in the way of seeing a lot of what the movie does in bringing us along on Carol's journey - frankly, showing the destruction of the Kree ships in the trailer was crazy and shouldn't have happened.

And while I liked and appreciated the messages the movie makes regarding Carol coming into her own and pushing out the voices of those who would contain and control her - this time I also got a much better feel for the step-by-step journey to Carol's always intact sense of justice and the slow transformation to trusting herself as she learns what sort of people/ aliens she should be trusting.

I've made comment before that it's super-fun to have a Superman-level hero in the Marvel movies, it's also a joy to have someone who reflects the core of what's made Superman stand out since the inception of the character: someone with the moral centering to do the right thing who has the power to act on it without compromise or fear for their own skin, and who will not use that power for self-gain.

Anyway - fun to rewatch the movie again (and, I am sure, again and again in the future).

Friday, June 28, 2019

Noir Watch: Nobody Lives Forever (1946)


Watched:  06/28/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

A bit of lighter, post-war crime drama. 

Garfield plays a former con-man coming back to New York to reclaim the girl he left when he enlisted, and the wad of money he left in her hands.  She's thrown in with a club-owner and spent the money, and so he heads out to LA to reconnect with an old friend.

Running into some pre-war fellow goons, he's turned onto a scheme to rip-off a wealthy widow, who turns out to be less tired old lady and instead the lovely Geraldine Fitzgerald.  Trouble ensues.

The movie is so light in places and features so many comedic bits, it barely feels like noir - but structurally, it fits the bill.  Nothing ground-breaking here, but Garfield shows his chops as a strong leading man, and we get some great character actor performances and Fitzgerald demonstrates why she flirted with major stardom.

PODCAST! Teens in Space! "Space Camp" (1986) & "Last Starfighter" (1984) w/ Maxwell, Mrshl and Ryan


Watched:  06/17 and 06/20/2019
Viewing:  Second and unknown
Format:  DVD and BluRay
Decade:  1980's

It's "Teens in Space"! We get far out with one kinda-grounded adventure featuring some kids on an unscheduled voyage and then find trouble in Rylos City as playing video games actually DOES turn out to be a life skill (if you want to murder anonymous aliens). Join MRSHL, Maxwell and Ryan as we keep our feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.



Music:
Last Starfighter Fanfare - Craig Safan, Last Starfighter OST
In Orbit - John Williams, Space Camp OST

High School Movies Playlist

WWII Watch: Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)



Watched:  06/25/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's

A fascinating oddball of a movie - part epic, part recreation, part disaster film, part meditation on the futility of war, Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) is an all-star retelling the of the real life events leading up to, and a recreation of, the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Originally this was supposed to be two separate movies, one Japanese and one American.  And it almost is - the Japanese parts were directed by Japanese directors (Kurosawa was notoriously fired off the film!), and the American parts: an American director.  I can only wonder how that would have worked in practice, perhaps better.  Both sections reflect the mistakes made along the way - failure of diplomacy, duplicitous use of diplomatic formalities, bureaucratic loggerheads, etc...  Each section reflects back the stance of the home country on what happened at Pearl Harbor in tone and approach, which can make for something of a split-personality to the film that doesn't always work, but probably informs the viewer in 2019 what was felt a generation after the war.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

TL;DR: In 1989 I was 14, and I saw "Batman"



The kids are never going to know that there is, literally, in the public consciousness, a world before Tim Burton's Batman from back in '89, and a world that came into being after that movie.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Batman, the Michael Keaton/ Kim Basinger/ Jack Nicholson-starring gothic caricature that changed the public's perception of superheroes in general.  This isn't hyperbole - nothing was ever the same after this movie came out.  You don't get an Iron Man or Avengers without Batman.  You really don't get the idea out to the general public that comics have moved to a teens-and-up audience until you get breathless write-ups about the Batmania phenomenon.  You also don't have piles of merchandise for adults with a superhero logo on it until Batman, or comics movie-related toys flying off the shelf.

But, mostly, you finally got people to stop thinking "Bam! Whap! Pow!" when they thought about superheroes.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Seafaring Watch: The Sea Wolf (1941)


Watched:  06/21/2019
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's

For some reason folks try to file this movie under "noir", and... maybe...?  But I'm going to just go ahead and say "drama".  I'm not willing to do mental the work to turn a Jack London story on a boat into a noir.

I actually broke one of my own rules and purchased this BluRay a couple of months ago having had never seen the movie.  Honestly, I looked at the starring names, looked at the source material and the name of the director and figured "I've spent money on far worse films".

A wildly timely movie - perhaps depressingly so - as the original story by novelist Jack London was adapted to reflect the times.  A man on the run played by John Garfield joins up with a ship (agreeing after almost getting shanghied).  Meanwhile, an escaped convict (Lupino) is hiding on a ferry to San Francisco when it's struck by a steamship.  She and a writer (Knox) are rescued by the crew of The Ghost, but with no intention of setting them back to land.  The Ghost is a 1900-era pirate ship, and those aboard are a crew of the worst of society, who hate themselves almost as much as they hate each other (and assume the worst in everyone).

Friday, June 21, 2019

PODCAST! "Ant-Man" (2015) - Jamie and Ryan's Avengers Countdown


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Watched:  06/14/2019
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  4th
Decade:  2010's

Jamie and Ryan get small with a hero of dynamic proportions. It's "Ant-Man" (2015), Marvel's post "Avengers: Ultron" tone reset. Part heist, part retro-sci-fi, part superhero - it's the Gen-X superhero with a whole lot of supporting cast and the best van in superherodom.




Music
Plain Song - The Cure, Disintegration


Avengers Chronological Countdown Playlist


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Great "Big Red Cake" Taste Test - Part 2: Jamie Boogaloo


We covered some major territory in Part 1 of the Big Red Cake Taste Test.  But here at League HQ, we understand that science needs to be double-checked, and so we've signed up our better half to help calibrate the testing of tastes.

Jamie is a far pickier eater than myself.  She will decide well before she's seen, smelled or tasted a food that it is going to be "gross".  This is an ongoing battle in our house and has been waged relentlessly since Clinton's first term.*

But she will do taste tests.  I cannot imagine why, but she will.  Or steal a drink of my beer if I mention that I liked it.  She is a beer stealer.

She was the one who found the cake at HEB, but it was texted with a message like "barf!", to which I responded "BRING ME THE CAKE".  And, so, here is Part 2 of The Big Red Taste Test, where Jamie goes ahead and gives something new a shot.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Great "Big Red Cake" Taste Test - Part 1



So, we moved to Arizona in 2002.  And in 2003 I went to cook up some barbecue, and as part of that equation, I headed to the soda aisle.  It's a bit old school, but it's kind of a Texas tradition to drink Big Red Soda with your BBQ.  To my shock, they didn't have it.  That would be grounds for dismissal in Texas - we always have Big Red in any soda selection of quality.

I started looking around at convenience stores and other groceries, then finally asked my co-workers, and none of them knew what I was talking about.  Apparently Big Red is pretty regional.

So:  Big Red is a "red cream soda".  You can shorten that to "cream soda" and assume it's been colored red.  It has nothing to do with Big Red the cinammon-flavored chewing gum, so get that our of your head right now.  If you've had A&W Cream Soda or Dr. Brown's... something like that.  Only... redder.

I don't really drink sugar soda or any soda other than soda water these days (love me some Topo Chico), but every once in a while I still sneak a Big Red.  You don't need much... it's pure sugar.

HEB is a Texas-based grocery chain, and every once in a while they like to just mess with people and their weird Texas obsessiveness.  And that's how, I think, we ended up with a Big Red Soda Cake.