Sunday, January 30, 2022

PodCast 181: "Eternals" (2021) - Marvel Movie Madness w/ Jamie and Ryan

Watched: 01/15/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Chloe Zhao

Jamie and Ryan take on the 2021 Marvel entry that some has said has an eternal runtime. It's got a cast of thousands, and that's just the Eternals themselves. Join us as we get Kirby-tastic!

Eternally - Englebert Humperdink
Eternal Flame - The Bangles

Marvel Movies

Howard Hesseman Merges With the Infinite

Actor Howard Hesseman has passed.

If you've never seen WKRP in Cincinnati or it's been a long time,  I would encourage you to go back and check it out for a number of reasons.  I think Dr. Johnny Fever is kind of remembered as a kind-of-out-of-it drive-time DJ on the show, but returning to it - yes, he's that.  But Hesseman brought a level to the character that I think you were likely to miss when you were a kid, seeing everything as cartoons.  Johnny Fever is a guy with a lot of disappointments who has seen a lot, and winding up a DJ at a low-rated radio station in the midwest is all just part of the journey.  But under that, Hesseman brought intelligence and heart to the character - same as he would every time he showed up on screen after.

And that's what I associate most with Hesseman, was really the extra layer he always seemed to have in mind when bringing a character to life - that no character would just be a single thing, and they'd have depths that were there once you got past introductions.

Rock Watch: The Nowhere Inn (2021)

Watched:  01/29/2022
Format:  Hulu
Viewing:  First
Director:  Bill Benz

Rock stardom in the modern era is not what I think it was 30 years ago.  Sure, there are acts that can fill a stadium these days, but in the age of splintered genres, channels, modes of consuming music, etc...  when is someone "famous" as a musician or band?

The Nowhere Inn (2021) is a very small film that can very much feel like Annie Clark (aka: St. Vincent/ aka: Annie Clark) and Carrie Brownstein fucking around with a budget and telling a rock-and-roll fable that falls somewhere between Ziggy Stardust and Lynch and/ or a dozen other "identity" films.  That's not to say it isn't a watchable and interesting film, but it flits between "I feel like I've seen this before", "Oh, this is a very fun bit", and "people are assuming I know a lot more about Carrie Brownstein and Annie Clark's lives than I do".  

I genuinely cannot remember seeing a movie before that seemed so unclear on the idea that movies are a mass medium and need to contain everything the viewer needs to know - making references to information I'd be lost without from interviews I glanced at between 6 months and 4 years ago is... a choice.  

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Finally Got to it Watch: Firestarter (1984)

Watched:  01/28/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Director:  Mark L. Lester

Firestarter (1984) is a 90 minute movie that the studio inexplicably decided needed to be 2 full hours.  A taut 90 minutes would have not given me time to ponder "why is this happening?  Why is anyone doing what it is they are doing?  Why would anyone be this dumb?"

But the movie is 120 minutes, and so I did think these things.  

I don't blame director Mark L. Lester, who brought us Commando and Bobbi Jo and the Outlaw, because I think he did some stuff in this movie very well, but there's just too much movie here, which is an editing problem.  And, he didn't write the script.  I also don't blame Tangerine Dream, who provided the score and who are not at their best here.  

I don't blame Drew Barrymore, who is a child in this movie.  Nor do I blame Martin Sheen or George C. Scott, Louise Fletcher or Art Carney.  I might be blaming everyone else.  This movie is boring and makes no sense, and for a movie that's 120 minutes so they can explain stuff but that just keeps making things worse, that's a feat.  

Marvel Re-Watch: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Watched: 01/27/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Second/ Third (I rewatched 3/4ths of this movie a few days after I watched it the first time)
Director:  Destin Daniel Cretton

A rewatch with some time under my belt made me appreciate this movie even more, and I'd take back some of what I said on the podcast about Shang-Chi not having enough to do.  It's less than others, but he's doing plenty.  And Simu Liu is absolutely present in every scene.  There's a lot going on with his character and it's there in small looks and reactions.  Acting is reacting, and he's nailing that - in character as an observer who has a lot going on inside that he doesn't say out loud.

Between excellent all-ages action, very strong performers, and some deft world-building, I won't say it's a flawless film, but it's so... watchable.  And the characters all so well defined, I want to hang out with everyone in the film, even the bad guys.  I mean, I don't care what bad stuff Tony Leung's Xu Wenwu is supposed to have done, he seems cool AF.

I also am not as certain where Xialing winds up at the end of the film.  Is she reforming the Ten Rings organization?  Tilting back to running her dad's criminal empire?  The Ten Rings have sided with Ta Lo, and Xialing has fought nobly with her brother and Ying Nan's crew, so...  anyway, I enjoy the ambiguity at the end.  

And hats off to Awkwafina, who is both hilarious and absolutely grounds the film without shouting "say what....?" after every revelation.  The decade of friendship with Shang-Chi means she's very much working to understand the world, but we're never told by a very funny character that we shouldn't take it seriously.  That's something you would not have seen pre-Marvel Studios.

Anyhoo...  I love this movie.  I don't do top 10 lists or anything, but I do feel like this is up there with the movies I'll rewatch for years on end.  

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Emergency Friday Watch Party: Firestarter

So, we had planned to skip Friday watch parties the next two weeks, but we got a special request, and I have no plans.  

We're gonna watch Gertie light this mother up.

Day:  01/28/2022
Time:  8:30 Central/  6:30 Pacific
Service:  Amazon Streaming
Cost:  $4

Sorta Noir Watch: Over-Exposed (1956)

Watched:  01/24/2022
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Director:  Lewis Seiler

Eddie sometimes plays fast and loose with what he'll bring to Noir Alley, and Over-Exposed (1956) is definitely on the outer limits of Noir Alley.  I mean, it basically follows a story that could appear in many-a-noir as a morality play, but driven by a woman instead of a man, and it doesn't end in a hail of bullets for our protagonist.  

This one starts with a clip joint getting knocked over, and Cleo Moore - desperate for work - meeting the aging photographer who took a picture of her as she headed to jail.  They hit it off and she decides to pick up the trade.  She makes her way to NYC where she struggles off camera for some amount of time before finding success, especially as one of the girls in a sparkly one-piece bathing suit who takes photos in nightclubs.  This leads to the fanciest club in town, while she ignores Richard Crenna, a newspaperman who seems like an honest joe.  But, man, does he want her to want to throw all of her dreams and security out the window so she can become his little woman.

Of course bad things happen and her meteoric rise as a person who points cameras at people falls apart.  Something something photo blackmail racket (don't blackmail people, kids).

This looks very good for what feels like a dopey B picture, mostly existing to show off Cleo Moore in bathing suits and clingy gowns.  But there's enough story there for it not to feel cheap.  And Cleo Moore is all right.  She's good in things I've seen her in, even if she's never exactly bowling me over.  

If you're like me and only know sun-beaten older Richard Crenna, the squeaky voiced kid on the screen is almost unrecognizable.  But he's all right!  

It's a cheesecake picture that's kinda short on cheesecake, but that's ok.  Cleo Moore is just fine doing her own acting thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Action Watch: Nobody (2021)

Watched:  01/23/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Director:  Ilya Naishuller

Had COVID not been a factor, I would have probably seen Nobody (2021) in the theater.  It seemed like a simple movie - and it is.  It's an excuse for both a middle-aged-guy action fantasy, as well as videogame-style super action, just below the absurdities of John Wick (worth noting, this is written by the same guy, Derek Kolstad).  The kind of movie where our hero cannot be killed even if 20 guys with guns are coming at him and he does Krav Maga and Gun-Fu while they come at him, inexplicably, one on one and the baddies can't hit the hero when they all shoot at him for 30 feet away.

It doesn't mean it isn't fun.  It is!  

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

PODCAST 180: "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) - A Signal Watch Canon Episode w/ SGHarms and Ryan

Watched:  01/20/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Stanley Kubrick

Ryan welcomes old droog and new co-host SGHarms to viddy a bit of the old ultraviolence as we discuss a bit of popular cine. It's Kubrick's much-discussed 1970's masterpiece, and there's plenty to talk about. Join us for a sloosh, my brothers, as we sort through all that Master Kubrick has brought us. 

If you have not seen this film, be aware that discussion of the film will include covering the film's depiction of multiple forms of violence, including sexual violence. Proceed with caution.



Clockwork Orange Title Theme (based on Purcell's "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary" - Wendy Carlos
9th Symphony, 2nd Movement - Ludwig Van Beethoven, Berlin Philharmonic

Signal Watch Canon

Thriller Watch: Dressed to Kill (1980)

Watched:  01/22/2022
Format:  BluRay - Criterion
Viewing:  Unknown.  Probably third all the way through
Director:  Brian De Palma

It's very hard to say "I love Dressed to Kill (1980)" with a straight face, but I do think De Palma's pivot to a more explicit eroticism from the staid suggestion of such in the Hitchockian thriller is worth at least looking at.  At this point in his career, De Palma's movies read a lot like film school theory classes come to life, but I can't really remember our courses ever highlighting De Palma.  Maybe he's too on the nose with some of this stuff.  Maybe he wasn't "classic" enough.  

But, yeah, what Hitch only hinted at, De Palma is pleased to put up on screen.  Your mileage may vary was to whether this works for you, but in an era where cinema was where adults went for entertainment, and with De Palma dealing neither with the Hayes Code nor Hitch's pre-War sense of decorum, just be aware the film is frank about illicit sex and sexual kinks, and there's no shortage of female nudity (that's an Angie Dickinson body double in those key shots there at the opening, btw).