Saturday, April 21, 2018

THE WILD BUNCH (1969) Poster Art

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Decemberists on YouTube

Caught these folks again the other night and - as always - had a great time. They played tunes from across their career but leaned heavily on the new, very strong album. The only song I was unfamiliar with was the Lin-Manuel Miranda penned Ben Franklin's Song which was cut from Hamilton. He thought it was the perfect track for The Decemebrists - and he was right! 

Many F-Bombs are dropped in Ben Franklin's Song. If you know Ben's life that won't be much of a surprise. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What I Watched in March

ANNIHILATION (2018) is an amazing breathe of fresh air in these days of tent-pole science fiction films. Operating at the opposite stylistic end of most modern cinema SF that vies for mass attention every year this film is a calmly, deliberately told tale of mysterious alien contact. Telling the frighteningly plausible tale of a slowly expanding extraterrestrial effect that may destroy the North American continent and the world, we accompany a team into the influenced area. Once inside people are subject to odd mental and physical consequence of the alien power spreading across the land as thy push toward the coast to reach the original point of contact. Along the way they discover strangely altered animals, dangerous plant life and the remnants of earlier teams. Each of these encounters makes them doubt their ability to carry on, doubt themselves and wonder if the possible answer waiting for them might be beyond their capacity to understand.

Adapted from a novel by Jeff VanderMeer by director Alex Garland (EX MACHINA) the film channels Tarkovsky's classics SOLARIS (1972) and STALKER (1979) but finds a new way to get to the same questions. This tale's answers are surprising as well with the main character's motivations twisting in an interesting direction by the third act. This is not a perfect film but it is thoughtful, intelligent speculative fiction that stands well beside ARRIVAL (2016) proving that cerebral science fiction filmmaking isn't dead yet, even if it only shows its head on rare occasions.

At the other end of current cinema science fiction we have a film that is built around giant robots beating the crap out of each other.

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING (2018) should not have been as enjoyable as it turned out to be. As a sequel it should be a weaker version of the original movie running the surviving characters through their paces while introducing some cardboard new faces to take the place of the hearty souls that perished in the last story. So, how did this movie manage to surprise me? It refuses to copy and paste the first film. Yes, it brings the next generation of Jeager controllers on board giving us the fresh, young faces to pilot the robots but it makes a couple of sharp turns with the new characters. The story has advanced ten years so the holdovers are the same but different. In fact, some of the changes to them are both logical and horrible turning the third act of this story in an interesting direction. I won't spoil things but I was impressed with how this continuation grows the storyline in smart ways giving the Pacific Rim title an even more understood importance. And they did it all without subverting the victory of the first movie! I love it.

What anyone would fear from a film of this type is that it will descend to the crap level of the useless Transformers franchise where nothing matters except spectacle and explosions. But, if anything, this movie made the returning characters richer and the new people are well drawn and easily relatable. This bodes well for any future sequels and i hope we get them.


ANNIHILATION (2018) - 8 
NAKED...YOU DIE (1969) - 7 (rewatch)
MY FORBIDDEN PAST (1951) - 7 (New Orleans drama with Mitchum)
DARK HARVEST (1992) - 2 (shot on video mess)
THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR (2017) - 4 (no budget fantasy tries hard)
THE SAGA OF HEMP BROWN (1958) - 6 (standard western made good by cast)
DIMENSION 5 (1966) - 3 (terrible, cheap SF spy tale)
THE MYSTERIOUS MAGICIAN (1964) - 7 (a.k.a. DER HEXER - fun krimi)
THE SCARLET CLAW (1944) - 7 (rewatch) (creepy Sherlock tale)
LIFE (2017) - 7 (good ALIEN clone)
DAUGHTER OF DRACULA (1972) -6 (Jess Franco vampire film)
NIGHT SCHOOL (1981) - 6 (not bad slasher)
CRY WOLF (1947) - 7 (Flynn & Stanwyck in mystery melodrama)
ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO (1967) - 7 (solid western with Peppard and Dean Martin)
ISLAND CLAWS (1980)- 5 (well done but let down by FX) 
THE NICE GUYS (2015) - 8  (rewatch)

Friday, April 13, 2018

ALIEN (1979) Poster Art

Decades later this film continues to inspire artists. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blake's 7 on YouTube!

2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the underrated, underappreciated British television show Blake's 7.  It ran for four years from 1978 to 1981 and over the course of its 52 episodes it broke new ground for science fiction TV in many ways. It told a continuing story of a group of rebels working against an oppressive, authoritarian Federation of planets. Each new season saw a rotating cast of central characters with a few core people remaining for the whole run. New cast members were necessary because one way this show separated itself from more conventional SF TV of the period was that no character was safe. People died unexpectedly as part of the dystopian narrative and by the third season even Blake himself was lost and presumed killed!

Sadly, this excellent series is not well known in the United States as it was only broadcast briefly in the early 1980's and only in a few cities. It's deadly serious tone combined with the typical British SF  television low budget look made it a difficult sell here, I suppose. But it is exactly that tone and look that attracted me initially as I was already used to the feel of Doctor Who of the period. It was the smart scripts and sharp dialog that kept me coming back for more. I would eventually spend lots of time over the years digging through magazines and books trying to learn more about the show. It was years before I was able to see all the episodes and by then I could quote some scenes perfectly.

But I know I'm part of a small cult on this one. Just not enough people know of the show and I fear that far too many others would not have the ability to forgive it for the problems that it's low budget necessitated. The leap required for the willing suspension of disbelief might be impossible for those that didn't catch the show in a less CGI-filled time. Oh, well.

If you're interested enough to see what all the fuss was once about the entire series seems to be available on YouTube. Below are the first three episodes that set the story in place and introduces the first central cast. My hope is to find another fan of the series and do a 40th Anniversary podcast about Blake and his band of rebels and miscreants. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Reclining Theater Seats - Not The Best Idea Ever!

For a long time now I've been curious about a certain type of Theater that had yet to come to Nashville. You know the kind - they have large, plush reclining seats. I read about this advanced level of theatrical comfort and knew that eventually we'd get something like it, if we were lucky. Sounded like a dream come true! Maybe they would deliver beer to me during the preview trailers as well.

Well, without me realizing it, those types of theaters had finally sprung up in my town but I only wish I'd known about it beforehand.

My girlfriend and I were going to see the Pacific Rim sequel (which, by the way, turned out to be much better than it had any right to be). Because of a previous appointment we ended up going to a theater that's usually a little out of our way and not one that we attend frequently. While buying our tickets we were confronted with the fact that we had to choose our seats. We'd been confused because a couple right in front of us trying to purchase tickets to another movie had left without going inside. We quickly discerned why. For the screening of the movie we wanted  to see there were only two seats still available that were actually right next to each other. All other seats in the theater were singles meaning that we were the last couple in attendance that could sit together. If we had been unable to get seats right next to each other my anger would have been off the charts and I doubt we would have gone to see the film. Even without that barring our rare chance to go to the movies I was still peeved that things could be so poorly managed as to turn away customers in such a stupid way. After buying our tickets and realizing just how irritating I expected this experience was going to be we proceeded into the cinema and learned very quickly that it was only the first problem we would encounter.

One of the larger problems with going out to see movies is that you have to do so in a room with a bunch of strangers. Ordinarily this isn't a big deal but on occasion you end up accidentally seated near idiots. In general I'll inform overly talkative folks that they are not in their living rooms and no one else cares about what they have to say. That approach works fine with most simpleminded dimwits but not always. In such cases you have to get up and move away from the brain-dead word vomiting dolt. You see where this is going, don't you?  

Yes - Problem number two with this new type of theater seating is that if you end up seated next to babbling morons you cannot simply get up and move to another seat. You have bought one particular seat and one particular seat only. In most cases - as in ours - there are no other seats to move to. You are screwed! You're going to sit next to that chattering dullard or whining child or clueless cretin for the entire film. Period. So, I had to endure sitting next to a dunce who had to give me and all around her an intermittent recap of the action onscreen. So my enjoyment of the film was sporadically disrupted by such trenchant exclamations as "Oh! Look at that! He slid in there!" or "He ain't going in there!" or "He's the bad guy!!"  There is not a room in Hell hot enough for this level of transgression.

Needless to say, I spent the entire running time of the film trying to suppress my desire to strangle this moronic chair barnacle. That I am not in jail currently speaks volumes about my strength of will. Or my fear of prison.

To sum up - I'm not sure I'm going to enjoy the move toward fewer but more comfortable seats in theaters. The downsides are many more than I had anticipated and the intelligence level of movie going crowds show no sign of improving. I'll have to be much more choosy in the future and, although I'm sad to say it, there are places I will no longer patronize. I have to be able to move far enough away from the idiots to enjoy the film. Time to go back to the Drive-In! 

Friday, April 06, 2018

Trailers From Hell - THE SHADOW (1994)

THE SHADOW is one of those films that I still think is a mess of good and sloppy elements that combine into a memorable but frustrating whole. It could have been a classic but the director (in my opinion) is too careless of tone and is convinced that camera movement connotates excitement. But others disagree including Agnes Morehead. Or is it Michael Schlesinger? Hard to tell!