Movie A Day!: Decline of Baby Strange

The heatwave has locked in and I’m coming down with a summer cold. Cursed! Here’s what I watched last week. Nearly done with the documentary/bio-pics and I had a rare outing to a first run movie!!


201 07/03 Sea Dog’s Tale (1926) 3/5 Billy Bevan takes the lead in this one as a Englishman who gets hoodwinked to a island to marry a native girl. It’s got some fun bits if you can get past the racial stereotypes and black face.

202 07/03 Hoboken To Hollywood (1926) 3.5/5 Billy Bevan’s gets has to pack up the family and move cross country to LA on a job transfer and gets into all types of shenanigans. Lots of good bits, this one works really well and sees Billy play a bit of a prick that separates him from most of the other comedians of the time.


203 07/03 The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) 4/5   Thanks to Shout Factory I was finally able to get my mits on this one. Since it was impossible to find in my neck of the woods. It was worth the wait. A fascinating look at the LA punk scene and featuring a pre-Henry Rollins Black Flag and The Germs which features future Foo Fighter Pat Smear. Some bands come off more sincere than others but almost all of them are kids so it’s hard to tell really. At any rate, it’s a crucial document.


204 07/03 The Decline Of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years (1988) 4/5   This one is the polar opposite of the first one. All the punk attitude is gone and everything is sex, drugs and Rock ‘N’ Roll. The old guard like Aerosmith, Lemmy, and Alice Cooper seem to shoot pretty straight while the new bands like Faster Pussycat come off as complete imbeciles. When this one came it, it was pretty hot stuff as I was into the scene. Watching it now, it’s hilariously bone-headed and the sincere explanations for the glam make up is cringe-worthy. Another must see documentary.


205 07/04 Baby Driver (2017) 4/5   The best of the (I think) two action musicals I have seen.  It completely delivers on the premise of a wheel-man fueled by tunes. Everyone in it is pitch perfect and despite a rather contrived ending the film is such a joy I can forgive it. Edgar Wright just simply knows how to make great movies and this one is no different.


206 07/05 The Great McGinty (1940) 3.5/5   A hobo gets swept up into politics thanks to a gangster’s scheme to throw city and state bucks into real estate. SOUND FAMILIAR?!?!? This one from Preston Sturges has some biting commentary on politics and great performances but didn’t reach the heights of his other work for me.


207 07/06 The Lost Weekend (1945) 3.5/5   Billy Wilder takes a hard look at alcoholism in this one with Ray Milland starring as a writer whose life is ruined by the booze. It plays like a film noir except drink is the dame that brings ruin to the main character. It’s good, but even at the worst depths Milland seems to mostly have a handle on things due to his natural charm, despite going all out.


208 07/07 Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin’ (2013) 4/5   A fantastic documentary on Hendrix that covers all the bases as well as showing tons of clips of him performing. Not much else to say, if you’re interested in Hendrix, this is the one for you.


209 07/07 The Decline of Western Civilization Part III (1998) 4/5   Spheeris is back, 10 years after Part II to reexamine the LA music scene but instead delves into the lives of the Gutterpunks, homeless punk rock kids that basically escaped their abusive homes. It might be the best film of the series. It never judges or tries to manipulate you, it simply depicts their lives and lets them speak for themselves. This series of films is essential stuff.


210 07/08 Doctor Strange (2016) 3/5   Finally got around to watching this one and it’s simply okay. These Marvel films have all settled into their groove so there’s not much to say. Doctor Strange is a prick, gets humbled, finds his true power and quips the whole time like every other Marvel superhero. Some great visuals that were frankly used better in Inception, and some okay fight scenes. Nothing else to say.


211 07/09 Hit So Hard (2011) 4/5   A really great documentary about Hole drummer Patty Schemel who struggled with addiction. They get everyone from the band, including Courtney Love, back to tell her story, and Patty taped everything so there’s tons of great footage of Hole on the road and performing back in the 90’s. Add in a mini-history/commentary on other women drummers through history and it all adds up to being great.

 

When the worst film you have seen is Doctor Strange, it’s not a bad week.

Movie A Day!: Gilmore Spectre Girl

Another week and another list of things I’ve watched. I wrapped up the Gilmore Girls this week and now begins trying to catch up on other things. I had the weird experience of having a news article quote me heavily this week and entered into the wild. All of it is anonymous, but it’s still weird to see deeply personal stuff aired in public like that. There will not be links at this time.


072 03/20 Gilmore Girls Season 7 (2007) 3.5/5   And here is where the journey ends. I’ve heard nothing but complaints about this season, and for the first half of it I can see why. Both Lorelai and Rory make all the wrong decisions and it is absolutely infuriating to watch. The interesting thing though is that these horrible decisions don’t actually conflict with the characters behaviour as set up previously, so it’s sort of brave for the creative team to make them so unlikable despite how unpopular it was. Second half of the season is much better, with things resolving relatively naturally for the end of the series. According to Wikipedia, this season had different show runners which might explain some of the confusion at the start. The wiki also says that the original show-runners wanted to have a season 8 to wrap up all the storylines. Which would of been interesting, but as it plays out, it wasn’t really necessary. As a whole, I really enjoyed revisiting the series and am glad I finished it after all these years. It mostly holds up. Some of the pop-culture stuff is dated of course, it was hard not to snicker/weep over the many references to future president Hillary Clinton seeded though out. I’m still a little in love with Lauren Graham. As far as this style of show goes, the writing helps to keep it more relevant than some of the other soapy dramas of the era. I think? I’m no expert on soapy dramas. 


073 03/22 His Marriage Wow (1925) 3/5   Harry Langdon takes the lead in this slapstick comedy, starring as the groom who ends up convinced that his wife is only after his insurance. This one wasn’t as wild as the genre is typically, but it’s charming as hell. Langdon is more quiet and naive like Stan Laurel (the commentary track confirmed my suspicion that Laurel was influenced by Landon) and it makes for an interesting juxtaposition to the wilder action to see him work small in a genre that is so broad.


074 03/24 Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life (2016) 3.5/5   Ten years after season seven ends and the girls are back. Presented as four 90 minute movies as opposed to a series of episodes, it was both a joy and a mixed bag. The shocking thing is the sheer number of the cast they were able to bring back. It’s great, but it makes the episodes very busy to fit everyone in which makes for nice moments that work against actual cohesive storytelling. There was also more than a few music montage type deals that I found flat out annoying and excessive as opposed to fun and charming. Episode three I found to be the strongest of the four, and episode four nearly falls apart before redeeming itself in the later half. They could probably continue with another series after this one, but I won’t lose sleep if they don’t.


075 03/24 China Girl (1975) 3.5/5   Annette Haven stars in this one as a biochemist who is kidnapped and tortured with extreme pleasure in a bid to get her to give up the recipe for a drug that allows mind control. An exceptionally well done hardcore feature that actually delivers dramatically (in a grindhouse sense) more than just the sex scenes. Haven does a great job at both aspects, and the big surprise is James Hong (you’ve seen him in movies and television) making a non-sex appearance as the crime boss. Overall it doesn’t fully work as a kung-fu sex drama since it’s not fully committed to the drama (probably due to budget limitations for action scenes), but it works enough to be legit and worthwhile. A perfect example of the period of porno chic when it looked like hardcore was going to go legit, the bluray from Vinegar Syndrome is fantastic.


076 03/25 Spectre (2015) 3/5   The latest Bond film hits all the marks that is expected which is kind of the problem. It’s hard to get swept up in the action when you’re thinking “There’s the car ad, ah, there’s the watch commercial.” It all feels a bit outdated instead of fun. Especially now that we literally have superhero movies in which unstoppable feats of action fit more than in a “real world” spy film. The great Christoph Waltz gets to be the villain and they give him nothing to do. It’s not the worst Bond film, just a serviceable one.

That’s it.

Movie A Day 2017! 16-19: Kung Fu Gaming

It’s been quite the 48 hours as of this posting. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States and started signing bills guaranteed to make the lives of poor people poorer. The next day an entire gender of people with a good side serving of the other gender of people marched against Trump in protest in what might be the largest protest march in history. I wasn’t able to attend my local one. Another missed opportunity I am hoping to rectify in the future. It’s a good thing I don’t really believe in karma. If karma is real, I’m screwed.

Here’s the movie watching I’ve been doing.


01/15 The Last of Us (2013) 3.5/5   Fuck it, I’M REVIEWING EVERYTHING! Video games included! I won’t count it towards my total though. This one is a PS4 exclusive, and details the story of Joel, a single dad who is navigating his way through a zombie-like apocalypse. The story is centred around the relationship he has with Ellie, a teenager who may hold a key to a cure. It’s a horror game so there’s a lot of sneaking around taking out enemies both human and “Clicker” (the name they give the fast running zombies, like in THE WALKING DEAD, they never call them “Zombies”). It’s a lot of fun (and a pain in the ass), sneaking about killing things and people; ever pushing forward though broken cities and reclaimed earth. It’s a beautiful destruction to wander about in, and the story is a good one too which helps to hold your interest. The only real problem with the game is the “survivor” aspect. You kill some stuff then you spend twice as much time completely searching the area you cleared out scavenging for parts. It felt like 90% of the game was wandering around looking for things (see picture above of my actual game play) so you can craft items you will need for the next batch of things you have to kill. It ruins the momentum of the story. It’s a real problem with games like this that try to be “Cinematic” (UNCHARTED has the same problem, and is from the same studio). They just don’t work in the end. All sense of urgency goes away when you have to crawl around looking for bits of cloth or whatever. That said, it’s still fun to have a go at. Others think it’s one of the greatest games ever. I think it’s pretty good.


016  01/16 The Young Dragons (1974) 2.5/5   This one is notable for being John Woo’s feature directing debut and for having fight choreography by none other than Jackie Chan! Some of Woo’s trademarks are already on show; the cool pans, zooms and slow motion; the antagonist as hero. The action is all kung fu despite the plot being about gun smuggling betrayals and what not. That’s the only real problem with the picture, all the ingredients are there to make a great movie and it just never adds up to much. The fights are merely serviceable despite being performed and shot well and the rest of it isn’t very interesting. The only thing really going for it is it’s John Woo’s first feature film. I’m glad I’ve seen it but I doubt I’ll watch it again.


017 01/18 43rd People’s Choice Awards (2017) 1/5   I got roped into watching this one. The last group of human beings that should be allowed to vote for artists to be rewarded for their craft is “The People”. Case in point: Fifth Harmony was voted “Group of the year.” A quartet (?) of girls that are basically the Spice Girls but wiped of all identity and personality into blank girl slates, perfect for the empty Kardashian generation. It’s proven again and again, “The People” are too stupid to vote.


018 01/21 The Shaolin Plot (1977) 4/5   An evil prince is scouring the land collecting kung fu manuals by hook or by crook. Well, mostly with devastating kung fu with his miserable band of baddies. This move was awesome. Completely off the charts old school style kung fu, ridiculous blood and gore, a true epic to be discovered.


01/21 Super Mario Land (1989) Game Boy
01/21 Allyway (1989) Game Boy
01/21 Golf (1989) Game Boy
I’ve been slowly going through all the Mario games. The ones I have access to anyway. These ones were first timers for me since I never owned a Game Boy. Ends up Super Mario Land is one of the best Mario games I’ve played! The levels are interesting, there’s weird shooting levels to break up the platforming, I loved it! I prefer it to the North American Super Mario 2. Great stuff.


Alleyway is basically the Atari 2600 game Super Breakout, but on the Game Boy. Why is it on my Mario list? Mario jumps into the space ship thing at the start, so it’s a Mario appearance. The game is simple: you control a paddle like in “Pong” and have to bounce a ball against a wall, breaking all the bricks. Why they needed to give this premise a Sci-Fi theme, I have no idea. It’s always had one though. Check out the Atari box cover.


Anyway, it’s actually a great game and I was surprised at how playable it is with a D-Pad compared to the paddle. A paddle is better, but it works.


Golf also featured Mario so it counted to. One of the worst golf games I’ve ever played, it can go fuck itself.


019 01/21 Her Torpedoed Love (1917) 2.5/5   Ford Sterling vehicle where he plays a scheming butler out to get an inheritance. Pretty typical slapstick vehicle that isn’t very interesting until the chase at the end. (To readers unfamiliar with slapstick, there’s always a chase at the end…)

Video games, kung fu movies and slapstick. Not the worst way to distract from this traumatizing week. I’m playing with formatting, trying to make this thing look a little better with my limited skills as a writer so please feel free to let me know what is and isn’t working. Wont you?