Sunday, April 29, 2012

Not Since They Nailed Him

I guess the less said about Matchless, the better. There was an interesting review on Movie Morlocks, examining it as an Our Man Flint-like Bond parody. Leading man Patrick O'Neil's resemblance to James Coburn makes this pretty plain.

Unfortunately, it is almost completely lacking in sexiness, laughs, suspense, action, or much of anything, except maybe Henry Silva as a sleazy spy and Donald Pleasance as (surprise!) the super-villain.

About all I can say is that it was better than Maroc 7.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Film Quiz!

You really have to go over to Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule to see SISTER CLODAGH'S SUPERFICIALLY SPIRITUAL, AMBITIOUSLY AGNOSTIC LAST-RITES-OF-SPRING MOVIE QUIZ. Don't argue, just go.

I am getting my answers in pretty late. I saw the quiz about 2 hours after it went live, and there were already 5-10 answers submitted. Now, 1/2 week later, I don't know how far down the list I am. Oh well, here are my answers, and I hope I don't lose too many points for tardiness. Or if I do, I hope that Sister Clodagh will rap my knuckles with her ruler - she can do it any time!

1) Favorite movie featuring nuns
SISTER ACT! Wait, I haven't seen that. Or THE DEVILS, or BLACK NARCISSUS. We thought of BLUES BROTHERS or CHARLIE'S ANGELS II, but those nuns weren't really featured. So we're going with GIRL'S TOWN. "Ave Maria, baby!"

2) Second favorite John Frankenheimer movie
I have only seen BLACK SUNDAY and RONIN. And I prefer RONIN, so BLACK SUNDAY.

3) William Bendix or Scott Brady?
Definitely the same guy who said "Definitely the same dame."

4) What movie, real or imagined, would you stand in line six hours to see? Have you ever done so in real life?
I have camped out for concert tickets but never a movie. It would have to be something pretty special, like a showing of THE LAST WALTZ with live appearances of the ghosts of Danko, Manuel and Helm.

5) Favorite Mitchell Leisen movie
OK, I had to look this guy up. MURDER AT THE VANITIES is a sentimental favorite - our frat presented this (mostly for the "Reefer Man" number). But, look, this guy directed MIDNIGHT. This is my favorite movie in any number of categories.

6) Ann Savage or Peggy Cummins?
Ann Savage for DETOUR. We haven't seen GUN CRAZY.

7) First movie you remember seeing as a child
I saw a lot of drive-in movies from the backseat in my jammies with my parents. I remember most clearly VIVA LAS VEGAS, NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, and THE WHEELER DEALERS, a James Garner comedy about the art scene. Since that was from 1963, it must be the first. I was 7 years old. I'd love to see this again, but it isn't easy to get ahold of.

8) What moment in a movie that is not a horror movie made you want to bolt from the theater screaming?
I was able to endure the misogyny of THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT, but my brother never forgave me for making him sit through it.

9) Richard Widmark or Robert Mitchum?
Stab me through the heart, why don't you? How am I supposed to choose between these two?

10) Best movie Jesus
John Turturro from BIG LEBOWSKI.

11) Silliest straight horror film that you’re still fond of
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, really only for the last scene.

12) Emily Blunt or Sally Gray?
Emily Blunt I recognize from THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, where she did some very good interpretive ballet (at least, her stand-in did). Gray, I've never heard of.

13) Favorite cinematic Biblical spectacular

14) Favorite cinematic moment of unintentional humor
OK, this is kind of embarrassing - In JULIA, the Jane Fonda-is-Lillian-Hellman movie, there is a scene where the Nazi students grab a Jew and threw him over the railing of a stairwell, killing him. But the way it is filmed, with the Nazis grabbing his arms and legs and swinging him, 1-2-alley-OOP! was so silly that I laughed out loud in the theater. Caught up in the moment, I thought it was supposed to be funny, until realized...

15) Michael Fassbender or David Farrar?
We have seen Fassbender in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, but now that we've researched David Farrar, I want to see some of his Sexton Blake roles. Oh, pass.

16) Most effective faith-affirming movie

17) Movie that makes the best case for agnosticism

18) Favorite song and/or dance sequence from a musical
Make 'Em Laugh, Donald O'Conner. Or maybe Bill Robinson going to Beal Street in STORMY WEATHER.

19) Third favorite Howard Hawks movie
Oh, come on! Anything after BRINGING UP BABY (favorite movie of all) and HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

20) Clara Bow or Jean Harlow?
The Platinum Blonde.

21) Movie most recently seen in the theater? On DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming?
Theater: None. We don't go to the theater to watch movies.DVD: THREE MUSKETEERS - the steampunk version. Streaming: BANGKOK KNOCK-OUT - a Thai mixed martial arts extravaganza. Great action scenes spoiled by very weak plot/writing/acting/everything other than action.

22) Most unlikely good movie about religion
DOGMA is the easiest answer.

23) Phil Silvers or Red Skelton?
I was a big fan of THE RED SKELTON SHOW back in the day, but come on. Phil Silvers.

24) "Favorite" Hollywood scandal 
With question 20 in mind, the death of Jean Harlow, and the role of Christian Science therein.

25) Best religious movie (non-Christian)

26) The King of Cinema: King Vidor, King Hu or Henry King? (Thanks, Peter)
Come drink with me and King Hu.

27) Name something modern movies need to relearn how to do that American or foreign classics had down pat 
Have a plot.

28) Least favorite Federico Fellini movie
I love them all, at least the ones I've seen. I have to admit, the more pathetic films, like NIGHTS OF CABIRIA or LA STRADA are hard for me to watch, but that doesn't make them less "favorite". I would have to say AND THE SHIP SAILS ON. Just a weaker film.

29) The Three Stooges (2012) - yes or no?
I want to say no (to the hell!), but it actually looks better than expected.

30) Mary Wickes or Patsy Kelly?
Neither I not my wife recognizes Mary Wickes. Therefore my wife votes for Mary Wickes. Just kidding - we both like Patsy Kelly.

31) Best movie-related conspiracy theory
Conspiracy about a movie, or movie about a conspiracy? Or dealer's choice? How about Hearst's vendetta vs. Welles and CITIZEN KANE?

32) Your candidate for most misunderstood or misinterpreted movie
I want to say something like 1941, a favorite of ours and our hosts, but I don't think it really was misunderstood. People just don't like it that much.

33) Movie that made you question your own belief system (religious or otherwise)
CRYING GAME. Made us question everything.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Who's That?

We like to watch TV with dinner, usually a series on Netflix. Lately, that series as been Doctor Who (2005-). Flashback: When I first moved to California, Ms. Spenser (not yet married to myself), lived with her parents in Marin. I visited from Silicon Valley every weekend. Fri and Sat evenings usually found us in her bed watching Tom Baker as the Doctor on KQED. Well, she would watch them, and I would gently fall asleep. So my knowledge of the original series is a little fuzzy.

I could say a million things about the new series, all good, but will here confine myself to one topic - the strange impression I get that many of the roles are played by actors I recognize, although they aren't. For example, the tenth Doctor, David Tennant, seems to be "doing" Arnold Rimmer, played by Chris Barrie in Red Dwarf. He has the same accent, and the same way of wrinkling his nose and grimacing. I swear I heard him say "smeg" once. But that's not all. Take for example, a brilliant stand-alone episode, "The Unicorn and the Wasp", taking place at a house party for Agatha Christie in the 1920s. First, the lady of the manor seemed to be played by Felicity Kendall, and indeed it was! Now, I have a little crush on Ms. Kendal, and she looks every bit as winsome here as she did in, for example, The Good Life, although a bit older.

But who is that playing Agatha Christie? Why, it's Kendal's co-star Penelope Keith! Also known to public TV viewers from her role as Audrey in To the Manor Born. Except that it isn't her, it is Fenella Woolgar, a much younger actress.

But never mind, look who's playing the Vicar: it's Peter Davison, the fifth Doctor! Brilliant, to bring him back like that, and he hasn't aged a bit since the 80s. Um, I guess because it isn't him, but one Tom Goodman-Hill, who bears only the slightest resemblance.

So, is it my imagination (or almost autistic inability to recognize faces), or are they doing this on purpose? "Get me a Penelope Keith type for Christie", or "Can you put a little more Peter Davison into it?" Yeah, probably my imagination.

Steampunk Musketeers

How many Three Musketeers movies have we seen? Three Musketeers 2011 is another one. The "hook" is: the Three Musketeers as a 2011 action movie.

And so it starts with an Italian Job (2003) style heist in Venice, perpetrated by the three musketeers and Milady DeWinter (Milla Jovavich). The guys dress as ninjas, with collapsible crossbows drawn over-the-shoulder style. There are mechanical hidden doors, poison-dart booby traps, etc. Just what you'd expect from a modern adventure movie - I could almost hear "Throw me the whip" at one point. Then Milady betrays the boys, and we are taken to meet D'Artagnan and begin the standard story.

D'Artagnan is Lergan Loman, some kind of indistinguishable pretty boy, whose acting style draws from Val Kilmer, Tom Hulce, and maybe Seth Green. He does stunts well, though, so I won't complain. I have not much to say about the musketeers: Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans and Ray Stevenson as Athos, Aramis and Porthos aren't really very impressive.

Much better are Freddie Fox as Louis XIII and Juno Temple as the Queen. They are written as insecure teens and play it well. Christopher Waltz plays Richelieu with oily evil - invoking Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, as well as Charlton Heston from the Richard Lester version. James Corden as Planchet clearly watched Roy Kinnear's performance in that version as well.

Orlando Bloom is Buckingham, played as an over-the-top fop. He is conspiring with Richelieu to conquer France (and - dare I say it - the world!) with a fleet of dirigible airships. That's right, Three Musketeers with steampunk zeppelins. If you give up in disgust at that idea, this is not the movie for you. You probably didn't make it that far. For us, we just went, "Cool!"

Director Paul W.S. Anderson is apparently not Paul Thomas Anderson, who made There Will Be Blood, nor Wes Anderson, who made Rushmore. Nor is Logan Lerman any relation to Baz Lerman. I'd kind of like to imagine the movie if any of these gents had been involved. I'm sure it would have been interesting.

But although the writing was flat and the acting nothing to get excited about, as a roust-about actioner, I'd say this held up. We didn't see it in 3-D, but the sets and CGI were all gorgeous, and the fights and chases are fun. It is clearly based on the Lester action comedy spectacle tradition, and also the generic modern action film, but it does those very well, if that's what you like. And it is, and we did.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bright and Stormy

I visited San Francisco recently, on the night of the most stunning lightning storm in recent memory. You may have seen the pictures of lightning striking local landmarks. I was visiting my friend DW, whose apartment overlooks AT&T Park - we saw multiple simultaneous strikes around and behind the park. At the time, we were drinking a cocktail that DW had created on the spot, which I have named after this rare atmospheric phenomenon.

It's based on the classic Bermudan Dark and Stormy: black rum and ginger beer, with a lime squeeze. This drink always reminds me of Boston in the winter. You see, I've never been to Bermuda. But I've been to Boston in the winter, and I guess that's when bartenders think longingly of the islands, because that's when it is always on their blackboards. DW's version starts with much more lime, a homemade ginger infusion and a hint of mezcal for a little bitter, smokey mystery.

Bright and Stormy

1/2 lime, muddled with:
2 oz. ginger-infused light rum
Dash of mezcal (Trader Joe's label)

Strain into rocks glass over ice and top with 1-2 oz. ginger beer.

Horsing Around

I've got to admit, we didn't really watch Year of the Horse, Jim Jarmusch's documentary on Neil Young and Crazy Horse. We just put it on for the music.

What we have here is Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law, Ghost Dog, other weird stuff) filming Neil Young and Crazy Horse's 1997 tour in glorious 16mm. He includes some bare-bones interviews and lots of old footage. I'm sure the interviews were fascinating. One I tuned in for had Neil discussing the band name: he always talks about Crazy Horse. The band always says "Neil Young and Crazy Horse", but Neil thinks of the band as a single organism. Um, Neil, if the rest of the band doesn't think that, you may be mistaken.

In fact, a lot of the interviews and other footage shows Neil or the other members (Ralph Molina, Billy Talbot, Pancho Sanpedro) being jerks and assholes. But the music!

Crazy Horse is loud, simple, distorted rock. If you like that, you'll like the musical segments of YotH. Songs include Sedan Delivery, Stupid Girl, Tonight's the Night, and the anthemic Fuckin' Up. That's what we came for. I didn't mind the rest of the stuff, the interviews and the home video. I just didn't watch it. I came for the show.


Mr. Moto's Last Warning is not the last Mr. Moto - that would be Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation - but it is the one that is in public domain, so that's what we watched on Watch Instantly. (This is counting only Mr. Moto movies starring Peter Lorre.)

This tale of intrigue and derring-do takes place in Egypt, with Moto working to foil a plot that has to do with the Suez Canal - first uncovering, then foiling. He is assisted by upper-class English twit Rollo Venables, played by Robert Coote. This same role in Takes a Vacation was played by G.P. Huntley, as Archie Featherstone. English twits seem to be endemic as comic relief in Mr. Moto movies.

Watching this after Charlie Chan was instructive. For example, the Mr. Moto movie had a budget. There were sets (plural), props and extras. There were real actors, including Ricardo Cortez, John Carradine and George Sanders. So, a real movie. Maybe a B-movie, but not a Poverty Row B. There is really no comparison between Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan.

However, there is a movie poster in Mr. Moto's Last Warning for a Charlie Chan film, title partly obscured by a "Last Week" sticker. It was apparently included as a tribute to Warner Oland, who had just passed away.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Foreign to the Concept of Intrigue

You know how you're sometimes just in the mood for Robert Mitchum? It was the Movie Morlocks article "The Man with the Immoral Face" that got us thinking about him. And since I had Foreign Intrigue in my queue...

A reclusive millionaire suddenly dies in his French Riviera mansion. His private secretary, Mitchum, finds him just before he expires. And everyone wants to know , "Did he say anything before he died?"

Mitchum and the widow, Genevieve Page, don't know where the dead man's money came from or what he did. So Mitchum decided to look into it, following his trail to Vienna and Stockholm.

To step back a bit, this is a "Sheldon Reynolds" production. Who? Exactly. Mr. Reynolds also produced a TV series of the same name, and not much else. He seems to have a talent for lead-footed, thumb-fingered direction. The Riviera and Stockholm locations are real and look charming. The Vienna sets are cheesy and look sad. The plot starts out promising, then slowly gets dumber, then a little weird - if you can stay awake that long.

Reynolds is clearly going for a kind of Graham Greene/Orson Welles suspense and doesn't quite know how to do it. But he does have Mitchum, who looks great in the noir lighting in his trenchcoat. The widow Page and the mother and daughter from Stockholm, Ingrid Thulin and Inga Tidblad, are pleasant enough as well.

So, not a masterpiece. In fact, another Netflix streaming disappointment.