Saturday, July 18, 2020

Weekend Open Thread


25 comments:

  1. Back to my crappy and w/o AC New York City apartment after a week house-sitting a centralized AC home in Upstate NY... just in time for a 90+ degree heatwave. Who says life is fair? :-(

    SCREAM 4 (2011, Showtime) is that rare fourth entry in a long-running series ("Halloween 4," "Star Trek IV," "Sudden Impact," etc.) that merits consideration as best of the bunch. With Kevin Williamson back on the writing seat and the commercial pressures of following the blockbuster success of the 1996 original in the rear view mirror, Wes Craven (in his final directorial effort) is clearly having fun going back to Woodboro. The returning veterans (a never-better Neve Campbell, Arquette & Cox on their way to splitsville, Roger Jackson's so-good-I-want-him-reading-the-phone-book killer voice-overs) and new generation of wannabe scream queens (Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, Alison Brie, etc.) have the attitude to sell the convoluted-but-entertaining story that Williamson concocts. All that plus supporting thesps (Anthony Anderson, Marley Shelton pulling off a flawless Anna Faris impersonation, etc.) and gorgeous cinematography make this the best-looking and second-best "Scream" ever made, IMO. Listen to the 'FTM' podcast (recorded right after "S4" premiered).

    Other than knowing it existed FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR (1986, Disney+) was a complete blank slate for me. Holy effin' shit, this "E.T." ripoff has moments where it really goes dark and makes you question whether you're watching a Walt Disney production. Seeing young David Freeman (Joey Kramer) interact with his family after a weird time loop is heartbreaking. Still can't tell if Dr. Faraday (Howard Hesseman) is a good or bad guy, but young Sarah Jessica Parker is adorable. An uncredited Paul Reubens ('Compliance!') and the good-for-the-time special effects make this the opposite of "Mac and Me": a kid's sci-fi flick that takes itself (and the emotions of both young and adult characters) seriously.

    VENGEANCE: A LOVE STORY (2017, Showtime) has aspirations of being the next "Accused" or "Bad Lieutenant" (the good one! ;-)), but the low production values constantly hurt it. Nic Cage (who produced the film and came close to directing it) is mostly background as the lion's share of focus is on single mom Teena (Anna Hutchison) recovering from a gang rape witnessed by her young daughter (tremendous lil' actor Talitha Eliana Bateman). Deliberately meant to be anti-climactic (legal weasel Don Johnson demolishes Teena in court), the setting of Niagara Falls would have been an asset if it movie hadn't been shot in Georgia (face palm at the digital waterfalls). Strictly for Cage completists with a high tolerance for cinematic cruelty against rape victims.

    Also rewatched a few films with fan-made online commentary tracks: PET SEMATARY (2019, A. Prime), ZOMBIE (1979, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray) and the aforementioned "Flight of the Navigator" (Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy) and "Scream 4" (Forever Cinematic). A good time, but I wish theaters were open anywhere near the Tri-State Area that don't require I own a car for me to park my butt in front of a drive-in screen. :'(

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    1. Look into some window mounted AC units. They can be quite affordable and you should really have one for this heat!

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    2. I love Flight Of The Navigator. Watched it over and over again as a kid, which maybe speaks more to the size of my VHS collection (and the fact we only got 5-6 channels on our antenna) than the quality of the movie. Watched it a couple of years ago with my kids, and it they liked it.

      Yeah, get a window mounted unit. I am also in a shitty apartment, and have one in the bedroom. With a fan and the door open, it keeps the whole apartment reasonable during the day. At night I can close the bedroom door and make it downright cold for sleeping.

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    3. Luke/Paul, I can afford the AC unit (though I need a more expensive mid-ranger in the 6,500 to 8,000 BTU range to compensate for my place being on the top floor; direct sunlight on building roof = ten degrees hotter than apartments in lower floors). But my monthly electric bill goes up to $400+ with an AC on, especially now that I'm there 24/7 and not at work half the day. I can afford that outrageous price gouge, but I'd rather sweat for three months out of the year than being $1,200 poorer every summer. Shitty Sophie's Choice every year. :-(

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    4. So do you just go the route of buying a fan and having it directed at you for most of the day?

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    5. A/Cs...i remember those.... I had just bought a huge A/C in my last apartment..then I bought a house with 19" windows and had to give it away. I have 4 fans running in one room all directed at the desk and I still want to peel my skin off.

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    6. Guys, I got four fans going. A giant (loud!) one for the TV and electronic components (used sporadically) and three more surrounding my main location (bed, recliner, table, etc.) so that two cancel each other and leave a vacuum that the third fan fills with relatively cool air. My electric bill still goes up, but only $15-20 instead of 400!

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    7. I remember literally sweating out a hot summer in an apartment in Pittsburgh. Air conditioning was not within my budget, so I used two fans. I know the discomfort when the fans are not sufficient, J.M.

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    8. I feel your pain... when I moved I had to give away my beautiful A/C unit because this house has 19" windows..and I've suffered through the 10-12 days a year in Maine where I regret not investing in another unit. But last weekend broke me...and the dog... I broke into my mad money and did very well on Facebook Marketplace picking up a portable floor model that vents out the tiny window. Indeed I wish I had done it sooner and immediately felt better, I can actually sleep at night and adjust my house when it is cooler outside than inside. And I feel much more productive.

      So it took 5 years to save up but it was worth it.

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  2. Finally caught up with THE OLD GUARD and EXTRACTION on Netflix. Like most everyone, I thought OLD GUARD was pretty good, with great performances by Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne. I wanted there to be more of an ethical debate, in how maybe the villains are right to use immortal DNA to cure disease, but wasn’t explored in depth. I didn’t enjoy EXTRACTION as much. When the characters aren’t shooting guns and crashing cars, they’re all sad and mopey, which made it a slog.

    These movies had me going to the “action” tag on Netflix and scrolling all they way to the bottom to see what oddball stuff is down there:

    ANIMAL WORLD (2018) Remember that clip of the kung fu superhero clown fighting monsters that went partially viral a while back? This is that movie! It’s actually about a gambler forced into a high stakes game to pay off debt. It’s kind of like SUCKER PUNCH, in how the big CGI action is the main character escaping into his own little fantasy world. A lot more gambling drama than action. Michael Douglas plays the villain, in a my-friends-and-family-will-never-see-this performance. It’s an OK movie, just not what the trailer advertises.

    ARES (2016) About underground MMA fighting in a dystopian future where genetic engineering has run amok. That might sound awesome, but I was really bored. Looks like a lot of people online really dug it, though, so cross-reference “mileage” and “vary.”

    OFFLINE (2016) A video game nerd has his identity stolen by a rival gamer. To get it back, he must apply his gaming skills to real-world situations. It’s an unbelievably stupid movie, but an action-comedy hit the spot after all these other dreary action flicks. Actress Mala Emde steals the whole movie as the pluck love interest. I can totally see her becoming a big star.

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    1. Some great recommendation for smaller and foreign movies here.

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    2. I'm down for "Old Guard" because Charlize Theron hasn't let me down yet, but from your descriptions nothing about these Netflix action flicks sounds even remotely interesting. I know Thor's gotta eat and kill time until "Guardians of the Galaxy 3" is a go, but Hemsworth ought to look at the quality dramatic work Capt. America is doing over at Universal ("Knives Out") and Apple TV+ ("Defending Jacob"). That's how you spend your post-"Avengers: Endgame" mojo building roots for a future non-MCU career. Then again, "Extraction" is a monster hit and Netflix pays as well or better than the competition. Has "Extraction 2" been announced yet?

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    3. The best way to Watch these Netflix action films, is exactly like the flood of Direct to Video action films we shelved at Blockbusters...put them on in the background and only watch when an action scene breaks out. The Fight choreography in Extraction is delightful. I love living in a Post John Wick world...it's like when Tsui Hark raised the action film bar in the 80s and made everything better.

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  3. This open thread picture made me laugh out loud. Those who've seen Between Worlds... you know...

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    1. Opened to comment on this. That movie rulez.

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  4. So for the longest time, I was under the impression The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was Sean Connery's last movie. Turns out, it's even more embarrassing. Nine years after League, he voiced the lead character in a Scottish animated monstrosity called Sir Billi. I bought the DVD out of sheer morbid curiosity, and it's truly terrible. Here's a little recap/review on YouTube if anyone's curious.

    In other news, The Day After I'm Gone is an Israeli drama about a recently widowed husband and his inability to communicate with his daughter, who's depressed after losing her mother. It's a heartbreaking movie with excellent actors. Won't You Be My Neighbor is sweet and life-affirming. Weathering With You is beautiful and magical. And Lucky Numbers and Killing Gunther are pretty bad.

    Have a good weekend everybody!

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    1. Even in retirement, Connery's notorious ability to choose the worst possible projects hasn't left him yet. :-D

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  5. I haven't posted since Junesploitation, but I've seen some good stuff since then:

    White Squall (1996)

    A little ridiculous, this cross between Stand By Me, Dead Poets Society, Master And Commander, (and a touch of The Ghost and The Darkness), was nevertheless quite engaging. I loved the blunt adventurism of it all, and am a sucker for anything with a sailing boat. There were a lot of striking visuals, especially of the boat, which wasn't surprising considering R. Scott directed.

    In Which We Serve (1942)

    Written, directed, produced and starring Noel Coward (and co-directed by a young David Lean) in his only film directing credit, this is an excellent British "propaganda" war film. I really enjoyed how stoic and reserved the Brits all were, compared to the American propaganda films of the time. The action scenes were fantastic. One of special qualities of these movies is that they had the backing of the military, so had the fund and access to ships/etc. that filmmakers otherwise wouldn't have had. After sinking the ship, and losing half the crew, the Captain gave a speech that made my heart swell with pride and resolve to see the war through.

    The Night Of The Generals (1967)

    Starring Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Donald Pleasence, Philippe Noiret, Christopher Plummer and many others, this movie is set in WW2 germany. However, with the plot revolving around a prostitute that was murdered, it's much more of a mystery than a war film. There is one fantastic (and brutal) battle scene and a whole plot to kill Hitler, but they operate more as a backdrop to the intersecting lives of 3 generals, and one man obsessed with finding the killer. Peter O'Toole really shines in his performance as a OCD closeted alcoholic. Although it becomes rather obvious who the serial killer is long before the ending, the entire film is tense all the way through to the final scene. I had never heard of this one before, but it's very good.

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  6. "White Squall" and 2006's "A Good Year" (a male version of "Under the Tuscan Sun") are only some of the most obvious examples of Hollywood royalty going on a working vacation and charging the studio corporate card for the off-the-set dinners and nighttime fun. Other movies have done it (Adam Sandler's "50 First Dates," etc.), but Ridley is just a tad more shameless about it. ;-)

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  7. Watched First Cow because hey, it's A24. I hate to say that I wasn't really into it. I hesitate to complain about the pacing and the editing, because I get that this isn't a summer blockbuster. I'll just say it wasn't for me and leave it at that. A lot of those movies I've only seen once, and even True Grit is now a decade back.

    Aside from that I started rewatching Coen Bros. movies, having gone through Blood Simple, Crimewave, Raising Arizona, and Miller's Crossing since yesterday. Wanted to watch Barton Fink today but was sidetracked by 3+ hours of Japanese television. Really though, early Coens and recent Coens I've either seen recently enough or seen enough times that they're all pretty fresh in my mind. It's the period from The Man Who Wasn't There, through to True Grit that I'm sort of eager to get to.

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    1. That's too many good classic Coen movies for such a short time span. Human beings aren't conditioned to experience so much quality filmmaking in a 24-hour period. :-)

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  8. Had myself a #HeavyAction double feature that turned out more interesting than I expected. Both were first time watches, and I believe recent additions to Amazon Prime US streaming.

    First up was Ridley Scott's Black Rain. This was produced right in the middle of the "did you know there are other cultures?" boom of the late-80s early-90s action films, after Red Heat but before Rising Sun. The Japan related material is rather interesting, although it doesn't go all that deep. A lot of talk about honor, pretty boilerplate. What's really interesting is Michael Douglas' character, or rather how poorly conceived he is. On the surface, he's a classic antihero. A motorcycle riding cool cop, with a devil-may-care attitude towards everything, including race and gender relations. He's also dirty as fuck, beating suspects and stealing evidence for his own use. I guess you could make this work, but Douglas is so unlikable here that I just didn't care when he completed the character arc of "not being a total piece of shit."

    I followed it up with Andrew Davis' Code of Silence. Patrick has mentioned this in the past as Chuck Norris' best movie and, yeah, it totally is. But this movie has almost the opposite problem, where Norris is such a virtuous boy scout from frame 1 that he doesn't really have a character arc to have. He's already perfect. He's so ethical, that he won't even engage in hearsay at a hearing about a cop that he knows is dirty and being covered up for. It's amazing. It's pretty shocking to watch a 35 year old movie which is pretty damning about the Blue code of silence, only to realize that we've made no progress. Anyway, as a #HeavyAction watch it's pretty great, and definately the better of the 2. It does have 1 glaringly huge plot hole though, as it wants me to believe that Chuck Norris could ever be a Chicago cop. I don't buy it. Maybe, like, Indianapolis? Or Wichita? But not Chicago.

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  9. During a crazy week- the reason I am only posting today- I got around to watching five movies.

    MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL (2019) - Being a big fan of Miles Davis' music (especially the 1950s period), it was interesting to learn about the personal context behind his creativity. He admittedly was a jerk throughout much of his personal life, but that does not take away from the music.

    THE INITIATION (1984) - For some reason I have been intrigued by this slasher film. The sorority slashers are ones I tend to like anyway. On watching The Initiation, I was for the most part underwhelmed. This is a derivative slasher... until the conclusion. It is quite a WTF ending, and it redeems the film. Daphne Zuniga and Vera Miles rise above the material, putting in performances above what is required. i would go back to Killer Party or Hell Night before revisiting this one.

    VAMPIRE ECSTASY (1974, dir. Joe Sarno) - I was alternately bored and somewhat intrigued by Sarno's attempt at a lesbian vampire film. Sarno, a sexploitation filmmaker whose work I have long appreciated, is more than a little over his head, only reaching a consistent tone during the conclusion. In any case, at 100 minutes in length, any soft-core film will feel long. On the other hand, the cinematography is more ambitious than in most of Sarno's work. Check off one more film I from his Swedish period that I have watched.

    SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES (1971, dir. Jean Rollin) - This was also a watch on TUBI. It has been at least seven years since I saw one of Rollin's vampire films. (I watched the atrocious Zombie Lake for Junesploitation last year.) SHIVER was re-watch, and it was one that I greatly enjoyed. In the early part of his career Rollin succeeded at creating an intense dreamy atmosphere in his films. The narrative is never of much importance. That atmosphere carries me through those films. Anyone expecting a typical horror film will be disappointed.

    SIN YOU SINNERS (1966) - Another Joe Sarno film on Tubi, but this one runs barely above an hour. This is the kind of stylistically rough black-and-white cheapie I associate with Sarno and 1960s sexploitation in general. It is suitably sleazy and tame in manner of that period. The story is of an aging striptease artist and her daughter. As usual, Sarno wrings a lot of melodrama from it.

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    1. Sin You Sinners is from 1963. Sarno's work would improve after this one, thankfully.

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