Saturday, August 1, 2020
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
I've suffered through this movie, and now you should too.
It's "Psychomania" - a movie British people love and Americans will find baffling.
The leader of a biker gang in a small, British municipality makes a deal with the devil for power or immortality or both (I can't remember) and returns to life to wreak havoc. And by havoc, I mean - kind of upsetting old ladies and people on ladders.
The final film of famed actor George Sanders, this one plays with life, death, and life again. And frogs. and motorcycles. And very, very bad music.
Day: Friday 07/31/2020
Time: 8:30 Central
Amazon Watch Party (link here)
Monday, July 27, 2020
|in which I argue this is a hero of the people|
Because parents are now largely concerned their children will experience any joy that doesn't have bumpers on it,* I don't think kids really know about Bugs Bunny. Which is a shame.
Being a 1980's latchkey kid who had a Zenith for a babysitter, like most of my generation, I had WB cartoons blasted at me day and night for my entire youth. From my earliest memories straight through college, Looney Tunes were not just a staple, but a constant. In a way, the cheap programming of a thousand UHF channels and basic cable options may be the truest common denominator for 2-3 decades of Americans. All of us know "Rabbit Season/ Duck Season". We all know the weird, hilarious poetic tragedy of Michigan J. Frog and those who find him. We all know the best thing to do when pursued is to dress as a coquettish young blonde and flirt with our pursuer.
It's printed on our DNA.
Sunday, July 26, 2020
Olivia de Havilland has passed at the age of 104.
With an astounding career that spanned the Golden Age of Hollywood into the post-studio system Hollywood, Olivia de Havilland was the last, living player from some of the great pictures of the early sound era. She was in Gone with the Wind, but I prefer her and the movie of The Adventures of Robin Hood, in which she co-starred as Maid Marian.
Just last week, during my lunch break, I watched her in part of Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
She had remarked in her last decades that being one of the last living actors from a bygone era of Hollywood was like being from a place no one else could remember. That always struck me as remarkably sad.
She'd lived in France for the past six decades, returning to the US for various events and film roles.
Here's to a grand actress.
Saturday, July 25, 2020
How odd. I always thought of Regis Philbin as.. a permanent fixture. He'd seemed sort of ageless all his years on TV.
But he seems to have passed.
For the kids - Regis was a sort of gadfly of the media industry who had his greatest success with "Regis and Kathie Lee" back in the 90's, a softball morning show where he drank coffee and met celebrities and clearly had no idea who they were or what they were pitching. He was a great default guest for late-night talk shows (I always suspected he was on speed dial when they had a cancellation) because he'd been a sort of Jiminy Glick for so long that he had tons of crazy stories.
Anyway, he was someone I always found pretty funny. He had a certain joie de vivre that made him a kick to have on. And, when he hosted the game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, our own Nathan Cone got to meet him as a contestant.
Format: Criterion BluRay
Director: Wei Lo
So, if the *last* Bruce Lee movie I watched I wondered "hey, why didn't they use more of the snow cone girl?" - friends, I have learned that is Nora Miao, and I was not the only one who thought she should get more screentime. Here she plays the childhood sweetheart of Bruce Lee's Chen Zhen, and she appears in a few of Bruce Lee's big-name movies.
First, I loved Fist of Fury (1972). Great story, interesting character arc, complex scenarios and amazing fight scenes. Nothing to not like. I don't know if the film had a much higher budget than The Big Boss, but it just *looks* better than the prior film, and the story is infinitely tighter.
The story will feel a bit familiar to those of us who've seen Fist of Legend (which you should 100% see), and I'm unclear if this movie is based on a true story of any kind. I don't think so, but... the movie says it does?
When a Master of a martial arts school dies under mysterious circumstances, his star pupil, a passionate young Bruce Lee, returns to Shanghai to mourn - and, once he's clicked to the fact the death made no sense - seek out justice. The story takes place in The Settlement, something I had to look up, an international portion of Shanghai that has a fascinating history.
The Japanese come to the funeral for the Master and basically bully multiple schools at once, knowing that the Chinese can't push back. Except for Chen Zhen, who comes to the Japanese dojo and kicks the living crap out of *everyone* in a dynamic fight sequence. However, this leads to retribution on several fronts and an impossible situation for Chen Zhen's school.
|Bruce realizes this was the girl selling shave-ice in the last movie|
At the heart of the film is Chen Zhen's romance with Nora Miao, and their interrupted dreams of settling down and running a martial-arts school, and the opportunity for Lee to do some dramatic acting alongside his angry-young-man work.
Anyway - shocker, this is a good Bruce Lee film.
Friday, July 24, 2020
Format: Amazon Streaming
Viewing: No idea
Director: James Cameron
ArnieFest continues with a mid-90's film that dares to ask "what if James Bond were married? And Austrian? And American? And Tom Arnold was there?" It's the action comedy sensation that everyone in film school had to write a paper about and feel bad for enjoying. SimonUK and Ryan go on a less-than-secret mission to revisit this Arnie favorite.
Main Theme - Brad Fiedel, True Lies OST
Nuclear Kiss - Shirley Walker, True Lies OST
Thursday, July 23, 2020
Format: Criterion BluRay
Director: Lo Wei
I've only ever seen two Bruce Lee movies, but - like everyone - I like the *idea* of Bruce Lee. His byzantine relationship with America and Hong Kong, his cocksure manner that he could 200% back up, his ability to synthesize the old into the new, his drive and his ability to cut to the quick of reality in a few spare words that it comes off as spiritualism.
Be water, indeed.
The Big Boss (1971) is not Lee's first movie. He'd been a child actor before getting sent to the US (where he was born and so had citizenship - his father touring in the US as a performer at the time of his birth) for street-fighting and headng down a bad path. Lee had starred in 20 movies or so in Hong Kong, and appeared on US television as Kato and other roles, as well as appearing in the Chandler adapted film Marlowe (he's good, but his exit is not great).
He returned to Hong Kong to find out he was a bit of a star thanks to The Green Hornet, and was hired by Golden Harvest, who put him in The Big Boss. By American standards of 1971, it's a low-budget production. The story is fairly straightforward. And Lee is used very strangely.
According to an interview attached to the disc, The producers weren't sure which of the two main characters at the start of the film would be the hero of the story, so Lee's character just sort of watches from the sidelines. Apparently the producer, Raymond Chow, liked what he saw, because he canned the director and put Lee in the rest of the film - and the rest is history.
When he's finally allowed to cut loose, Lee is like a magnesium flare suddenly bursting into the film. His martial arts are totally different, he's the fully formed, swagger-prone Lee you know. The beginning of the movie is a decent set-up, if a bit stiff, but once Lee enters the fray (breaking a promise to his mother not fight), the rest of the movie takes off like a shot. Including simple, dramatic scenes.
In a way, it's like seeing a character dropped in from another movie, and I am not bagging on 1970's martial arts films, but there's a reason The Big Boss kick-started Lee's superstardom. He's really frikkin' good and clearly an innovator of character and fighting style.
I won't oversell the actual film. It's creaky and clunky, and marginally more adult than I had expected (some light nudity and sexuality paired with an axe to the head or two, and piles upon piles of dead people). And there are plot holes. But when it takes off, you don't really care all that much.
Mostly I want to know what happened to the girl you see selling snow cones at the beginning. I kept thinking she'd be relevant - but not so much.
Here's to you, snow cone lady.
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
The outerspace equivalent of Seinfeld's "Rochelle, Rochelle" - Barbarella is a young girl's strange, erotic journey from one dopey planet to another.
It's really pitched as being sexy, and maybe this does it for someone out there, but aside from giving us the name of a great 1980's band and containing a series of WTF moments and an electric organ with quite the bonus features, Barbarella is kind of like a movie that promises you the sexy and then lifts the hem of her skirt to show you some ankle whilst smiling coyly.
Anyway, it IS batshit crazy, so we're going to watch it. It co-stars John Phillip Law, which makes me wish Danger: Diabolik were available. But it is not.
Day: Friday 07/24/2020
Time: 8:30 PM Central
Format: Amazon Watch Party streaming