Good weekend to everyone.I did something this week that I have not had the chance to do for a long time: Spend a whole night watching movies on the television. It was Alain Delon’s day for TCM’s Summer Under The Stars, and I felt like seeing ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (1960), Luchino Visconti’s saga of Italy’s post-war internal migration, again. At three hours, there is so much to absorb with ROCCO, but there is an earnestness to the melodrama that makes it work. Then Jean-Pierre Melville’s THE SAMURAI (1967) was on, which I did not intend to watch but immediately got sucked into it. This story of a hit man is genre cinema as art film, full of a visual flair and with an iconic performance by Delon. You can tell Melville watched a lot of American crime films. PLANET OF THE APES (1968) – Another film I watched in the context of TCM’s Summer Under The Stars. This was not the first time I have seen it, and my reaction was similar to what I remember about the first watch. I struggle to get into suspension-of-disbelief mode, definitely overthinking the premise. (English has not changed in 2000 years?) I do, however, like the creation of the “ape” world and the focus on ideas - religion vs. science, prejudice, civil rights - as the film goes on. Credit to the actors for going through that arduous make-up process for their roles. MAN BAIT (1952, dir. Terence Fisher) – I admit that the title alone aroused my curiosity. This was originally titled The Last Page in the U.K., but Man Bait is much catchier. The story of blackmail in a London bookstore unravels more than a little during its 80-minute runtime, spoiling the potential of a good beginning. I found it better than expected, though. Man Bait is also a bit of Hammer Studios history, one of a number of crime films produced by it in the early 1950s.
What I adore most about POTA is the same thing I love about the Batman 66 series, while the premise is ridiculous everyone is dialed in and treating the material as if it's Shakespeare ( hyperbole I know, but its true). Plus I love doing impressions of Maurice Evans as Zaius in everyday life.
I finally caught up on Irresistible from earlier this year. When I read Rob's review, I remember thinking "I bet he's being a bit harsh." He was not. As much as I love Jon Stewart, and think he's probably the most important voice in compemporary American politics, he is not a screenwriter. It's less of a screenplay and more of a blog post on Stewart's grievances with money in politics and PACs. Not to mention that Steve Carell is playing a character who couldn't exist. About halfway through i found myself wondering if he was meant to be a Frank Drebin-esque bumbling fool who somehow has stumbled his way to the top. I dont think that's the intent, but maybe it is. Anyway, it's not funny either. So, whatever.
I just got home from seeing The New Mutants at the theater. It was... fine. I thought the characters and their powers were realized quite well on screen but the plot offered absolutely nothing original, surprizing or memorable.Earlier today, I watched Do the Right Thing for the first time. Probably doesn't hit a non-American like me the same way it does over there, but it definitely left me with stuff to mull over. I'm not really sure what to say about it but I'm already kinda itching to watch it again.A while ago I blind bought a Stallone movie I'd never heard before called Lock Up on UHD Blu-ray. Stallone plays a wrongfully imprisoned inmate tormented by the sadistic guards serving under an evil warden. You know what you're getting with a Stallone film from the late 80's, and this was no exception. Bill Conti's music rocks and Donald Sutherland hams it up as the villain. Plus Tom Sizemore plays Sly's fast-talking inmate friend in his first film role.And the Sean Connery vehicle The Terrorists (aka Ransom) from 1974 tries to be a tense action-thriller but doesn't exactly pull it off. Mostly it's a group of terrorists in a house, another group sitting in a grounded plane, and Connery as the hero talking on the phone to each other. I laughed my ass off when I realized the movie takes place in a country called "Scandinavia".The Old Guard is pretty good, Birth of the Dragon is silly and fun, and Pixels is pretty bad (shocker, right?). The Depeche Mode documentary Spirits in the Forest is more about six select fans and their stories than the live show they attend. Fortunately, the Blu-ray also includes the show in its entirety.
Hope everyone has a good weekend and stays safe!
Ah yes, the country of Scandinavia. I think that's north of the country of Africa.
Partners (1982, dir. James Burrows)John Hurt and Ryan O'Neal (you remember him as Barry Lyndon) are two cops who make unlikely partners. One is a brash womanizer, the other a timid homosexual. When a killer begins to target gay men, the two go undercover as a gay couple to help ferret out the murderer.It was solely because of John Hurt that I gave this one a try and boy is it 'gay panic' from start to finish. *That* slur is all over this movie. I don't really know what I expected from a gay-themed movie from 1982.Ryan O'Neal's character is given the biggest arc; going predictably from being disgusted by the f-words, to being grudgingly accepting of them. Which is, to be fair, the most this movie is asking of its audience. I've read this movie described as the comedy counterpart to William Friedkin's "Cruising," and I suppose this film is a way to make a story about gay lives more approachable than Friedkin's. But Partners isn't funny enough to overcome it's mean-spirited comedy nor does it have the courage to present non-hetero characters as anything other than a stereotype.Crying Freeman (1995, dir. Christophe Gans)After reading the Scarecrow Movie Guide (a compendium of recommendations from the famous Seattle video rental joint), I sought this out for some escapist action. I think I saw the anime in my local video store as a teen. This, however, is a live-action adaptation of the manga/anime starring Mark Decasco.Right away, I noticed the influence of John Woo in it's artfully staged, slow-motion inflected gun battles. Although the story is set in Vancouver, BC (a decision that must have been economical and not a creative choice) it involves mostly Japanese and Chinese mafia-types vying for supremacy in a series of reciprocating vengeance slaying. Decasco plays the titular character, a reluctant assassin with the deadliest of skills.The movie's plot is so paper thin, with its bizarre supernatural origins of the Freeman (a role that gets passed down over the centuries), it starts to drag down the film. There's an obligatory romantic plot, and a few steamy setpieces to show off Decasco's impressive physique. The plot threads peter out in predictable ways, but what you are left with is the edifice of a handful of balletic shootouts with impressive cinematography. It's not even that the action is particularly inventive, it's just that there a little visual flourishes to many shots that make them feel more thought out.The movie loses points for casting Rae Dawn Chong as a police detective and does absolutely nothing with her.Feels Good Man (2020, dir. Arthur Jones)A documentary about the infamous Pepe the Frog meme and the artist who created him. Pepe was the invention of Matt Furie, an independent comic book artist and all around good guy. Then, by pure happenstance, the frog is appropriated as the Ur-Meme and becomes a symbol for race-baiting, nihilistic alt-right trolls to take everything charming and cute away from it.This movie is not only a history of the character and its evolution as a meme, but also an extension of Furie's struggle to regain some control over Pepe and reframe his creation into something more beautiful and uplifting. For that, I'd say it's a laudable effort. It's still a difficult watch because it compels the audience to meditate on the persistent garbage fire that is our politics and our Internet culture.
I just finished Charlie Kaufman's "I'm Thinking Of Ending Things" and loved it! I realized this when I noticed it was making (in my opinion) direct connections to Virginia Woolf's "To The Lighouse". I posted jumbled thoughts of my theory on my "blog" (which i've never used) if anyone is curious. I was going to just post it hear but figured spoilers might be looked down upon.I also watched The Big Sleep and Lady Vengeance and enjoyed both.
SILVERADO (1985) This is a nostalgic favorite for me, and I wish it got brought up more in discussions of the big '80s action flicks. Maybe some parts of it haven't aged well, but it's still a great time. AVENGERS ENDGAME (2019) "On your left." OKJA (2017) What an oddity. Fascinating how it takes the stock cute-kid-with-animal trope and then spins it off into so many other crazy directions. How the heck does Bong Joon-ho come up with the stuff that he does?
I have been enjoying the concert films and rockumentaries being shown on Turner Classic Movies this weekend. Last night I watched the great The Decline of Western Civilization again. There is a rawness to the doc that still communicates after almost four decades. You feel like you are being dropped into the late 1970s hardcore punk scene of Los Angeles. It is not pretty but quite captivating. While I watched the interviews with various members of the punk community, I wondered what had happened to them over the last forty years. The second volume, about the era of glam or "hair" metal in the late 1980s, was also shown, but I only watched part of it. It does not hold up as well.I am looking forward to seeing the Tom Waits concert film Big Time. I am a big fan of his and have only watched sections of the film.
Rope (1948) - Proof again there are holes in my filmography so big you can fit entire classics into them. After watching Notorious (1946) and being shocked how messed up and modern it is, Rope also blew me away. And I used to think nothing good happened before 1970. Bromley! For one of your Halloween series you should just cover some lesser known Hitchcock's. They need more love.
Movies made before 1970... that is a very deep cinematic rabbit hole, James. And a very satisfying one, too.
I am curious about that new Damien CHazelle movie coming out where it's supposedly meant to be played in vertical format on your phone. Seems cool! Goodbye landscapes?
Got to see Pieces, The Prowler, and Massacre at Central Valley High at Mahoning Drive-in for Camp Blood and they all played great. Krendal Super Cop to the rescue!
With work keeping me busy on weekends this summer, I have not had any opportunities to go to the Mahoning since the beginning of August. This week I am setting aside a day for Weekend of Terror, though.