Saturday, August 28, 2021

Weekend Open Thread

24 comments:

J.M. Vargas said...

Another week, another dollar (wasted on a bunch of 'meh' pics).

Martin Campbell's THE PROTEGE (2021, theater), Lionsgate/Millennium Media's designated August violent cartoon for adults (with 28 credited producers!), takes itself too seriously to have fun with its assassins-targeting-one-another tired premise. Except for the middle/last acts becoming a sexy "Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever" knockoff, Maggie Q and Michael Keaton are wasted while Samuel L. Jackson (who left all his energy and fun in Millenium's "Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard") is on auto-pilot. When it makes-up its own wacky myths (like Robert Patrick leading a gang of ex-pat bikers in Vietnam), "The Protege" has sporadic bouts of fun that stick out from the mostly-sour mood. Wait for streaming.

BELLBOTTOM (2021, theater) is to Bollywood action/hijacking movies what "The Delta Force" was to Hollywood: too silly to be taken seriously, but entertaining-enough to be endearing. Inspired by a real early 80's hijacking (when the movie's story is set), "Bellbottom" (named after Akshay Kumar's Jack Ryan-becomes-Ethan Hunt protagonist) isn't concerned with nuisance or subtlety. Pakistan government/military operatives are the bad guys, India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) are IMF-level whip-smart and tough, and "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" (complete with a well-timed sand storm) is the action blueprint the filmmakers choose to pattern their movie after. 'It's fine,' and at least the musical interludes are kept to a minimum (only three songs!) and complement rather than interrupt the narrative. It's no "Delta Force," but what is? :-P

Rachel Talalay's TANK GIRL (1995, Amazon Prime) is a terrible movie/comic book adaptation, but at least it was entertaining and goofy until Lori Petty's titular character forces a crowd of hostages to sing Cole Porter's "Let's Do It" (in 2030's dystopia?). It becomes unbearable after that, wasting the likes of Ice-T (hideous behind goofy Stan Winston monster make-up), Naomi Watts (unrecognizable as nerdy Jet Girl) and Malcolm McDowell (who was doing well as the baddie early on but fades as the plot advances) in a poorly-shot, badly-edited, wannabe action spectacle. Great comic book panel animation interstitials, though, and Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn movie roles are clearly inspired by the take-no-BS attitude Lori Petty brought to this otherwise forgettable flick.

If nothing else, David Bruckner's THE NIGHT HOUSE (2021, theater) is proof that the remake of "Hellraiser" (currently filming) is in good hands. A moody and atmospheric supernatural thriller with effective jump scares, this Rebecca Hall vehicle feels like the perfect middle-ground between "Hereditary" and "The Conjuring." I usually hate movies that try to walk a fine line between actual horror and psychological trauma, but "The Night House" makes restrain and patience its delayed-payoff virtues. Worth seeing.

Last and definitely least, rewatched 2015's POINT BREAK on Blu-ray 3D (five bucks at Tops). 3D effect is negligible, and with Kathryn Bigelow's version fresh on my mind after a recent HBO Max viewing the shortcomings of this remake are legion. Luke Bracey and Edgar Ramirez are such charisma vacuums as John 'YouTuber-turned-FBI-agent' Utah and Bodhi, respectively. The remake is simultaneously too different from its source material while also slavishly inserting its action beats (including the 'shooting into the air in frustration' scene) to minimal effect, despite having a budget to stage some impressive extreme sports stunts. "Point Break '91" has personality and attitude to spare, but "Point Break '15" is as bland and forgettable as remakes come. Some days it doesn't pay to be a Blu-ray 3D collector. :-(

benpeterson said...

I didn't know the director of THE NIGHT HOUSE was doing a new Hellraiser movie. So then, I definitely agree it's in good hands, because I loved TNH. Rebecca Hall is SO good.

benpeterson said...

I thought the new Candyman was very, very bad in just about every way.

J.M. Vargas said...

Curiosity about "The Night House." l distinctly remember seeing Rebecca Hall credited as a producer during the credits, but on IMDB she's not listed among the half-dozen other producers (David S. Goyer, etc.).😳😕

Casey_Doran said...

Your assessment of The Protege is spot on. It actually made me sad that they got Sam Jackson *and* Michael Keaton and when they were on-screen it looked like they were called in on their day off. The albatross of Martin Campbell's failure on Green Lantern hangs heavy indeed. And, I never thought I'd think this, but the optimism that I had for the return to "real" action movies after John Wick has almost completely evaporated.

Ross said...

My dad suggested a couple movies to me recently, the 1939 version of Four Feathers, and Sahara (1943) without realizing that they were both directed by the same person, Zoltan Korda. Zoltan, and his brothers Alex and Vincent with whom he frequently collaborated are interesting in their own right, having been born in Hungary and having made films there, as well as in Germany and London before eventually making their way to the States. Zoltan's final film before illness forced him into retirement was actually a remake of Four Feathers called Storm Over the Nile (1955) which included battle footage from his previous version.

They're both good movies. I think I enjoyed Sahara a bit more just because I've been on a bit of a Bogart thing lately. Structurally it ends up being a familiar sort of story with the climax being that Bogart and a handful of other guys basically are giving themselves a suicide mission, deciding to try to hold off a couple hundred Germans. It's the middle of the desert and Bogart & co. have gotten to the only well in the area and set up defenses against the Germans who have vastly superior numbers but are pretty much out of water. There's a scheming German prisoner they have to contend with, a more sympathetic Italian prisoner, an attack from the sky early on, and a tank that's struggling to stay functional in the desert heat. If you like Bogart and you like WWII movies, it's hard to find one better than this.

It always amazes me a bit though when I see these WWII movies that were made back when the war is still going on. Sahara is made in 1943 and references events that happened in 1941 (the siege of Tobruk in particular). I feel like these days when people try to make topical movies about current events, there always seems to be a general feeling of "too soon" fatigue. Maybe it's a result of 24 hour news channels and social media that constantly inundate us with the current events of the day that we're adverse to having those events pop up in our entertainment.

Sahara is free to watch with fairly minimal ads on Crackle. Four Feathers was on HBO Max.

J.M. Vargas said...

"John Wick's" action magic only appears to work for other "JW" sequels and for some of Keanu's off-screen projects (like his E3 2019 appearance at Microsoft's press conference promoting "Cyberpunk 2077"). At least we still have Gerard Butler's "____ Has Fallen" and Ryan Reynold's "Hitman's Bodyguard" sequels to look forward to.🙄😖

Meredith said...

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967)
Everyone's a good actor but the message here is dated and has not aged well. The parents - Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey- are supposed to be politically liberal, but the argument made at the end is so weak they might as well have been non-liberal.

Casey_Doran said...

There's just some kind of magic about Keanu that makes him so distinct from his peers. He may be an actor with the range of a single octave, but his charisma and his dedication to the projects he chooses is just astounding. My dream is that Keanu is one of the leads in Tarantino's last feature.

A Casual Listener said...

WESTERN UNION (1941, dir. Fritz Lang) - Though the politics of these old westerns may be questionable, they demonstrate that Hollywood knew how to create an entertaining spectacle. Shot around Arizona in beautiful Technicolor, Western Union is the story of the building of a telegraph line from Nebraska to Utah. The work gangs confront Indians and bandits while the protagonists engage in personal rivalries, particularly where romance is concerned. Western star Randolph Scott had an early role in this.

CANDYMAN (1992, dir. Bernard Rose) – The Mahoning Drive-In is a great place for a first-time watch of this horror classic. Though I found the ending a little problematic (Candyman a physical being?), the urban environment brings a lot of depth to the film. The reality of being part of an underclass is as scary as the Candyman’s crimes. This is a good example of casting (Madsen and Todd) making the film work. Phillip Glass’s score is beautiful.

CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) on Amazon Prime – Was Robitaille killed in Chicago or Louisiana? As with many horror sequels, the original story gets a reworking in Farewell to the Flesh. The Candyman is more of a character here, but that does not help the film. Being more in the background of the first film, the Candyman is menacing whenever he appears. The sequel demystifies him by showing him a lot more. I guess horror sequels have a tendency to do that, though. Watchable but lacking in the intensity of the original.

RIVER’S EDGE (1986) on Amazon Prime – I was not expecting this to be so quirky. River’s Edge is based on the 1981 murder of a teenage girl in California. The film takes many different paths around the murder, though. The disaffected lives of the adolescent characters is seems to be the main focus of the story. With Keanu Reeves, Crispin Glover, Ione Skye, and Dennis Hopper in the cast, the performances are, at the least, engaging. Tim, a ten-year-old character, was by far the most frightening. Could be a good Junesploitation choice for the Kids or Teenagers categories.

A Casual Listener said...

Interracial marriage was an touchy topic at that time. Even people with a liberal bent, like the parents in the film, might not be comfortable welcoming a black in-law. As weak as Guess Who's Coming To Dinner may be on the subject, it was still a mainstream film confronting it. 1967 was the year that laws against interracial marriage in the United States were ruled unconstitutional.

Meredith said...

Yea. Times have changed so much. I haven't really settled on how I'm supposed to look back at these movies. Good intention was of course there. But were they good? Or did they do more harm than good? Do those questions even matter? Do they SOMETIMES matter? Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was nowhere near egregious, IMO, but I've seen some very badly racist non-racist old movies.

But, a positive thing just came to mind - if, fifty something years from now, people look back at the movies we're making today and say "wow, people were soo backward back then, how can we even begin to think about what they were doing? we're so much more advanced", then, that would be a good thing :)

Ross said...

Candyman for me has always felt like it was maybe 70% of the way to a good concept. Tony Todd is great, the character has an interesting look, and his backstory is a little intriguing but then he basically gets saddled with the Bloody Mary m.o. which doesn't really work. There's attempts to have a racial angle in his story, but then he shows up and kills people who say his name in the mirror so I don't really get what his motivations are entirely. Granted I haven't seen the new one yet and it's been a while since I've watched the old ones so maybe I'm missing something or misremembering but I feel like there's a disconnect there between Candyman's origins and what it is he actually does.

A Casual Listener said...

Times do change. As kid of the 1980s, I find it interesting to see how people react to the movies of that era now. The stereotyping of Asians and homosexuals in particular does not pass 2021 standards. The bad male behavior of the sex comedies would also be part of that list.

A Casual Listener said...

TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (1985, dir. William Friedkin) – Could this get more ‘80s? It also is a genuinely good film. Friedkin brings the violence, swear words, and gratuitous nudity of the 1980s into a slick crime thriller about two Secret Service agents on the trail of a counterfeiter, compelling portrayed by a young Willem Dafoe. A young William Peterson is his main law enforcement adversary, a man with few scruples when it comes to getting an arrest. I loved how one unexpected event follows another. The car chase is one of the most impressive ever shot for a film, and the cinematography is frequently striking.


A Casual Listener said...

I do not think you are wrong, Ross. Since the Candyman is not the focus of the first film, some of those issues about motivation can be overlooked to enjoy what is overall a satisfying film. Maybe he is just a spirit angry with all humans. Farewell To The Flesh delves much deeper into a Candyman mythos, most of which failed to engage me or connect the present-day carnage to the past.

Ross said...

Not exactly a movie, but I watched the pilot of the '70 Incredible Hulk TV show. At a 94 minute runtime it's feature length at least, even if it's just meant to lead into the series rather than act as a self-contained story in its own right. I caught reruns of the episodes here and there as a kid, but I'd never actually seen the show from the start, and there was actually a lot I liked about it.

Like future attempts at doing the Hulk story, the writers here seemed to realize that having your protagonist working on a bomb isn't the most sympathetic origin story. Instead, after failing to save his wife from a burning car after a wreck, Banner is trying to figure out why some people get seemingly superhuman bursts of strength in similar traumatic situations. It's actually kind of an interesting premise that ties in with why the transformation is tied so heavily into his emotional state.

I've been reading Immortal Hulk which is due to wrap up next issue, and it's Cronenberg-esque body horror and focuses heavily on the Hulk's multiple personalities as tied into the physical/emotional abuse Banner suffered as a child. It's crazy and it's great, but it's a very dark take on the Hulk. This pilot episode of the TV show does heap an extra misery on top of Banner's trauma at the end, but when it comes down to it he's a good guy who is motivated by the fact that despite trying as hard as he could he can't save the people he loves. It's still a tragedy but one that's less emotionally punishing than what's in the comics right now, and more grounded than either Hulk movie (and better told in a lot of ways).

Not really any ideal ways to watch this right now. It used to be on NBC.com but it's not on there now and I don't think it's made the transition to Peacock either. Episodes/Season can be bought or rented in various places in SD, or for around $100 a complete set on blu ray can be imported if you have a region free player. I can only hope it ends up on D+ at some point.

J.M. Vargas said...

The 70's "Incredible Hulk" TV show is near and dear to my heart, as it was my childhood favorite. l actually saw the TV pilot you mentioned in a movie theater as a feature film (a common practice decades ago for expensive pilots, like "Battlestar Galactica's" or "Miami Vice's") with my mom. To my innocent 5 yr. old eyes, "The lncredible Hulk" 'movie' was just as impressive and bigger-than-life as Chris Reeves' "Superman: The Movie!" 🙄😇

The "Hulk" TV show, cheesy as it can be sometimes, remains the class act of the superhero genre. Whenever Joe Harnell's sad piano music plays at the end your heart sank because, no matter how the Hulk had saved the day for someone else, David Banner was cursed to keep running away from both his destructive alter ego (Lou Ferrigno) and the tabloid reporter (Jack Colvin's Jack McGee) chasing after him. God, l love this show. Glad l own the complete series on DVD, no streaming provider to worry about. 😎

J.M. Vargas said...

I have this taped on the DVR from TCM from a few weeks back. Cant wait, even though l already saw it a lifetime ago and don t remember most of it. 😕

Ross said...

Was not aware you were a big fan JM but I agree with a lot of what you say. The show retained the overall tragedy of the Hulk in that people are afraid of him and he has to stay on the move. By changing his core motivation though to being someone who was just devastated by his inability to help someone, Banner is set up as a character who is still going to go out of his way to help people despite all his problems and how it might complicate his situation.

J.M. Vargas said...

Of course since Bill Bixby played Banner (a good middle-aged actor rather than an attractive young hunk, like the cast of MTV's "Teen Wolf" :-P) his performance, along with Ferrigno's child-like monster during Hulk's calmer moments (Lou's acting chops to me were as impressive as his muscular physique), were the draw of the narrative. The Season 3 episode "The Psychic" (Episode 18, opposite Bixby's real-life wife) and the Season 4 two-parters "Prometheus" and "The First" are the peak of the "Hulk" TV show, IMHO. :-)

A Casual Listener said...

It was sitting on my DVR, too. I have a couple more neo-noirs shown last month waiting for a watch.

Meredith said...

You're right! But I find myself giving 80s movies a pass. Perhaps bc they were in my lifetime, too, so I'm more understanding? :)

Mashke said...

Bob Ross: happy accidents, betrayal, and greed (2021 netflix doc).

The title is misleading clickbait.

The doc itself is a fine watch for folks who are a fan of Bob (i am a HUGE fan) or maybe interested in some basic details of the origin story of The Joy of Painting and a few glimpses into Bobs life. Nothing very deep or even particularly new but a fine visit with an incredible artist who always sent a message of positivity and creativity and empowerment.

As for the "greed and betrayal": the drama is very much aligned with the classic scenario of once an artist (any artist..not just art..but also something like musician) makes money it becomes "The artist vs The Producer/Manager/Production-Company." In this case its Bobs son and friend presenting the case that Bobs original business partners, the Kowalskis, have monopolized his life's work/earnings/name inappropriately..especially immediately following his death.