Saturday, June 27, 2020
Director: Charlotte Zwerin
I am not a jazz aficionado - that's NathanC's gig. I honestly haven't put on a Thelonius Monk album in a while - maybe years. I did go through my jazz phase twenty years ago, so, yeah, I still have those albums.
TCM has been doing a series called "Jazz in the Movies", which I haven't watched much of, but decided to record a couple of films one night, and had heard that Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988) was an exemplary doc. This reputation was earned, and I am sure jazz fans all know it.
For folks like myself who are only vaguely aware of Monk, it's a fascinating crash course to get you past simply enjoying the music and understand the man who made it. Shocker of all shockers - a pre-eminent jazz artist has a complicated life and personal issues. Unlike Miles Davis, the wounds aren't as self-inflicted, but they do weigh on him.
Culled from footage shot on a late career tour and post-death interviews with colleagues, the doc paints a portrait of a complicated man who was *loved* by the people who knew him and couldn't help but stand in awe of his genius. And, yeah, I don't use the word genius a lot - but the names tied to Be-Bop sure seem like they deserve it.
It wasn't hurt at all by the intro and outro conversations on TCM by Eddie Muller (who knew he knew jazz?) and his majesty Wynton Marsalis (and, yes, I've see Marsalis play live once and it was worth every penny).
The doc gives the music room to breathe, and reminded me how and why I went through that jazz era. And what I'll be listening to after Jamie turns in tonight.
Format: Noir Alley on DVR
Director: Samuel Fuller
One of the things I enjoy about watching noir and older films is figuring out how great some directors really were. I still haven't watched enough Samuel Fuller, but I have yet to see a Fuller movie that didn't hit me over the head like a 2x4, and Underworld U.S.A. (1961) is no exception.
Thursday, June 25, 2020
Format: Amazon Streaming
Director: Paul Verhoeven
More ways to listen - choose a podcast format
We get our respective asses to Mars and talk Arnie's big-budget sci-fi opus, "Total Recall". Is this the real life? Is it just fantasy? Simon and Ryan dig into this 1990 fan favorite full of rad ideas, great sets and design, a terrific cast and a pace that's hard to beat. From the director of "RoboCop" and Sharon Stone's star turn! Open your minds and join us!
Total Recall Main Theme - Jerry Goldsmith
SimonUK Cinema Series
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Movie: (Spawn of the) Slithis - 1978
Watch Movie at: Amazon Streaming
Time: 8:30 PM
Let's pause it right at the beginning and wait for the cue at the hashtag. We usually get going right at 8:32 or so.
This looks super good. Nuclear waste! Swamp creature! Southern California sun-dappled beach town and mayhem and murder! And very, very good acting. Plus, it looks like they're kinda riffin' on Jaws, too.
Friday night! Prepare your own beverage of nuclear waste, fire up your twitter machine and join us as we ponder SLITHIS. Or SPAWN of the SLITHIS. Or whatever they called this thing.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Viewing: No idea
Directors: Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman
I feel like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) found its audience on home video that it didn't quite find at the theater, which makes me wonder how the coming sequel will do. I will say - I am delighted that the movie is finding the bigger audience it deserves and I'm still disappointed in Sony for failing to push the movie harder when it was coming out. Especially because - as much as I like the movie, it's just something to see on the big screen. I feel like a lot of people I've talked to who watched it on their screens aren't quite getting it because they aren't able to "see" the movie the same way and see how every frame and every detail is next level work.
Maybe when theaters re-open and there's nothing new to show, Sony can re-release S:ItSV. If they do, go see it on the biggest screen you can find.
At some point in the past year I mentioned wanting to show this movie to my dad, and he was just sort of confused (it happens. He was not expecting a Spidey rec.). But, man, this movie does such a phenomenal job of catching what it is to be in those early years of high school where you're figuring things out, and your parents are looking in from the outside as you come into yourself and find your people.
One of these days.
Anyway - in these days of challenge and change, I'm glad Jamie thought to put it on. Anyone can wear the mask.
Format: Amazon Streaming
Director: Frank Henenlotter
We've been taking suggestions from the peanut gallery for Friday night Tweet-a-Long, and Lauren brought this one.
Horror isn't really my thing, but sometimes the movies hit me just right, and that was the case with Basket Case (1982). A no-budget film that relies on a strong concept, some non-Henson-inspired puppetry and a go at stop-motion that would do Gumby proud, it's just simply way better than it seems like it should be. They go with less-is-more approach to our friend in the basket, and make sure a heaping helping of the horror is the descent our lead is on, acting out of love and Stockholm Syndrome.
Essentially the story follows a young man who hits NYC with *something* in a wicker basket - his conjoined twin from whom he was separated at a young age, with the intention the twin would die. Both have lived, and now seek revenge on the doctors who performed the surgery.
Along the way, the more normal brother begins to get an idea of what it would be to fall in love - which is at odds with his brother for any number of reasons I'll leave it to you to find out.
Anyway - good pick, Lauren!
Monday, June 22, 2020
Format: Amazon Streaming
Director: William Conlin
There's not much to spoil here - it's a fact based documentary on the people behind the iconic make-up for the run of the original 5 Planet of the Apes films, the TV show and more. It does a good job of contextualizing the state of the art in the mid-60's and how they got there, starting in the Lon Chaney era.
Really, what I liked is that - as much as it's about the make-up and creation of - it gives personality and stories to the people who were there and made a vision a reality. We sometimes forget there are minds and lives behind the people who aren't the writers, directors and actors - but those unseen wizards who rise at 2:30 AM to be at work by 4:30 AM to get the actor on the set by morning, looking like a gorilla? Those are people who fell in love with monster make-up to such a degree, that's how they love and what they've chosen to do.
And, of course, for the people involved, Planet of the Apes - which won an honorary Academy Award for make-up before it became a staple of the Oscars - was a major turning point in the lives of a lot of people in the Hollywood make-up industry. It was sort of the digital T-Rex of its day.
It's currently streaming on Amazon, and if you're any kind of POTA fan, I recommend giving Making the Apes: The Artists Who Changed Film a go.
Format: Amazon Streaming
Director: Stanley Tong
Back during my early years of college, one of the student associations would bring in Hong Kong cinema to Hogg Auditorium on the University of Texas campus. JAL and a few others of us would wander down there, and the place would be half-full with bats flying around during the show. Sometimes we'd be less sober than other times, but we were getting great stuff that didn't play even the arthouse theaters, and seeing it on the big screen.
But the thing JAL first used to get me to show up was describing how Jackie Chan films worked, so - we went and watched Police Story 3: Supercop.
Friday, June 19, 2020
Watched: 06/11/2020 (Backtrack) & 06/16/2020 (Contract)
Format: Amazon Streaming and TCM Noir Alley
Viewing: First / Second
Decade: 1990's/ 1950's
Director: Dennis Hopper/ Irving Lerner
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We're back with more noir - neo and otherwise! It's two movies about weirdo hitmen filmed 30 years apart. One is from the go-go 90's and has a lot of surprises, and the other is a cult classic of noir, about a man who just wants enough money to get that house he's had his eye on. Both have casts worth discussing and off-kilter approaches to their form. Join JAL and Ryan as we make our way through two features that don't get that many mentions.
The Signal Watch PodCast · 107: "Backtrack" (1990)/ "Contract for Murder" (1958) - Noir Watch w/ JAL & Ryan
The Executioner Theme - Perry Botkin, Murder By Contract score
Format: Criterion BluRay
Viewing: 4th? - for whatever reason, I've seen this a few times
Director: Ishiro Honda
This one I've seen a few times and very much remember watching it as a kid on some local UHF channel. However, I think watching it with Japanese language subtitled to English may have changed a few details. I swear I thought this whole movie took place on Mars.
It does not.