Sunday, March 31, 2013

All over the Place

I think I've mentioned seeing some Olsen and Johnson movie, but I didn't blog them because they aren't on Netflix: Hellzapoppin' (friend's copy) and Crazy House (rep movie theater).

All Over Town, however, is on Netflix. It isn't quite the same brand of insanity. Instead of constant fourth-wall breaking meta-textual surrealism, you get a pretty standard 1937 comedy. Ole and Chic are staying in a vaudeville boarding house, hiding a trained seal from their landlady (Blanche Payson).  They think they are booked for a gig at an old theater that is actually shut down due to a jinx and a murder.

It appears that they sold their Oklahoma filling station to go on the road with their seal act. When they are overheard talking about the money they got for the station, the rumor goes around that they are millionaires. They wind up backing the whole show with their imaginary fortune. When they are found out, they do the obvious - get a radio show to pay for the vaudeville show. They get the radio show by promising to reveal the murderer, of course.

Basically, a movie about putting radio show about solving a murder to pay for a vaudeville show just isn't up to their highest levels of insanity.

There's still a lot of good stuff here. Olsen and Johnson have a great line of double-talk, "Who's on first" style. You'll especially like the finale, which they narrate as sportscasters: "There's the pitch, it's a slapshot. Oh no, a 6-10 split. He's going to bunt from the 12-yard line!" and so on.

So, not classic Olsen and Johnson. You may not get what the deal is about them from this. But you will be able to watch it from Netflix.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Come Back, Shayne!

Remember how much I liked that Michael Shayne movie with Lloyd Nolan? Well, there are at least four more: Michael Shayne: Collection 1 - 2 double-sided discs, 2 movies each.

I'm not going to go over the movies in the set - they aren't exactly interchangeable, but they share a strong family resemblance. In every movie:

  • Shayne is broke and trying to get married
  • The mystery is in the "classic" style, with clues, twists, fake alibis, etc.
  • Shayne is no Sherlock Holmes, being just barely smart enough to beat the crooks
  • Shayne does something outrageous, like swindling his fiancee out of a thousand dollars to chase a beautiful female crook to Hawai'i
Hey, that Hawai'i interlude is great - from Blue, White and Perfect. At least some of the cast is actually Hawai'ian, including a cop who loses a couple nickles from Shane in a card game.

There's a lot of wise cracking, which Nolan is great at, and the action is as snappy as the patter. This isn't the Thin Man series, but it isn't far off. 

In conclusion, one of the sides of one of the discs wouldn't play for us. And there doesn't seem to be any Collection 2. But I want to see more of these!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Laptop Ate My Homework!

I'm pretty late for Miss Jean Brodie's Movie Quiz. I started,  but then my laptop went south with my quiz - although I'll admit, I didn't have many questions answered. Here goes:

1) The classic movie moment everyone loves except me is: Most of It's A Wonderful Life?
The way Stewart lets everyone walk all over him is revolting, especially because it is supposed to be all for the best. But I do like Sheldon Leonard as Nick the bartender: "Out you pixies go, t'rough the door or t'rough the window."

2) Favorite line of dialogue from a film noir 
Do you know the last line from The Maltese Falcon? Not "The stuff that dreams are made of", the one after that - the cop Bogart is talking to replies, "Huh?"

3) Second favorite Hal Ashby film
I've ony seen Being There and Harold and Maude, and it's a tossup.

4) Describe the moment when you first realized movies were directed as opposed to simply pieced together anonymously. *
They are?!?!?

5) Favorite film book
Canned Goods as Caviar, Gerald Weales,a close reading of 6 or 7 1030s comedies, like Bringing Up Baby, My Man Godfrey and Steamboat Round the Bend. These movies may have been intended as mass-produced canned goods, but Weales loves them better than caviar.

6) Diana Sands or Vonetta McGee?
Vonetta, for Jemima Brown, a difficult and controversial role.

7) Most egregious gap in your viewing of films made in the past 10 years
I've been lax about the more serious films, preferring action and comedies. But that's pretty much intentional. I guess I'd have to say The Hobbit, because it isn't on Netflix yet.

8) Favorite line of dialogue from a comedy
"He pulled a knife on me so I shot him."

9) Second favorite Lloyd Bacon film
42nd Street comes after Footlight Parade.

10) Richard Burton or Roger Livesey?
I don't think I've seen any Livesey, at least not to notice. But I've got no special love for Burton, although I liked him in The Night of the Iguana when I saw it in my jammies in the back of the station wagon at the drive-in at age 8. So, Burton.

11) Is there a movie you staunchly refuse to consider seeing? If so, why?
Tons of them. Torture porn, twinkly vampires, cute animal movies, all kinds of stuff. I wouldn't even watch Taxi Driver all the way through - too depressing.

12) Favorite filmmaker collaboration
Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond - Billy Wilder and anyone, really. I just like Diamond because his initials really stand for International Algebra League.

13) Most recently viewed movie on DVD/Blu-ray/theatrical?
The Bourne Legacy, an enjoyable modern action film, no more, no less.

14) Favorite line of dialogue from a horror movie
"The children of the night, what music they make!" My first choice was, "I never drink ... wine", but I'm afraid Lugosi never said that, like "Play it again, Sam."

15) Second favorite Oliver Stone film
Gee, I think I've only seen The Doors. Does "written by" count? Then, Year of the Dragon after Conan.

16) Eva Mendes or Raquel Welch?
Raquel was an icon, and she was in Myra Breckenridge and The Three Musketeers. But Eva Mendes is fine, and a better actor, in my opinion.

17) Favorite religious satire
Battlefield Earth. J/K, never seen it. It's obvious, but Dogma, my favorite Jay and Silent Bob movie.

18) Best Internet movie argument? (question contributed by Tom Block)
The one about 1941 - because I love that movie and it deserves more attention.

19) Most pointless Internet movie argument? (question contributed by Tom Block)
The one about Speed Racer, because, eh, it wasn't that great, not that bad.

20) Charles McGraw or Robert Ryan?
The strong, sometimes scary Robert Ryan.

21) Favorite line of dialogue from a western
"Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness." Or maybe "That'll be the day," because Buddy Holly picked it up.

22) Second favorite Roy Del Ruth film
You don't mean Del Lord, do you? I get them mixed up. [Goes to IMDB] The Maltese Falcon?!? Oh, the Ricardo Cortez version. Well, I liked that a lot actually. Not as much as Blonde Crazy, though. And I like Topper Returns even more. So Blonde Crazy.

23) Relatively unknown film or filmmaker you’d most eagerly proselytize for
Larry Blamire, of Lost Skeleton of Cadavera fame. Or maybe Dusan Makavejev, especially Sweet Movie and WR: Mysteries of the Organism.

24) Ewan McGregor or Gerard Butler?
I've seen surprisingly little McGregor and I like Butler a lot. I would have put him vs. Daniel Craig.

25) Is there such a thing as a perfect movie?
Yes, and they are more common than you'd think. Or I am just easily satisfied.

26) Favorite movie location you’ve most recently had the occasion to actually visit *
My folks have a summerhouse across the bay from cottage used for the exteriors of the Mel Gibson's place in Man Without a Face (exteriors). It's a favorite location, but not a favorite movie (never seen it), and I haven't been there in a while. So I guess I have to say, generically, San Francisco.

27) Second favorite Delmer Daves film
This time I'm not counting script credits. I choose the great Hollywood Canteen, second only to Dark Passage.

28) Name the one DVD commentary you wish you could hear that, for whatever reason, doesn't actually exist *
I rarely watch the commentary (so many DVDs, so little time), so I don't actually know what does and what doesn't exist. But I would love to hear Jacque Tati's commentary on Play Time, especially if he turned out to be really talky about a movie with almost no dialog.

29) Gloria Grahame or Marie Windsor?
Grahame is great, but Marie Windsor - there's just something about her.

30) Name a filmmaker who never really lived up to the potential suggested by their early acclaim or success
I was going to say Tom Twyker, but I realized that haven't seen Cloud Atlas. How about Tarsem Singh? The Fall was mind-blowing, but Immortals and Mirror Mirror only bagatelles.

I guess I'm just going here by my judgement, not worldly acclaim or success. Hope that's all right.

31) Is there a movie-based disagreement serious enough that it might cause you to reevaluate the basis of a romantic relationship or a friendship? *
We had a friend who didn't like screwball comedy - all that fast talking made her tired and nervous. We dropped the acquaintance, but much later, and for other reasons.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Prime of the Movie Quiz

Dennis Cozzallio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule has another Movie Quiz. This one is being run by Miss Jean Brodie, a most imposing presence. I believe I saw her in a movie once, in the back of my parent's car at the drive-in. Since I was 13 when the movie was released, I must have been a bit older than her students, but I was still quite impressed. At my current age, I am positively frightened.

She released the quiz on Friday, and I just found out about it this morning. I'm already late and it looks like a hard one. I'll get right to work, and you'll see my completed quiz in a few days... I hope.


The Bourne Legacy (2012) without any perceptible Matt Damon is nontheless pure, distilled Bourne.

It starts with Jeremy Renner as the new Bourne-type agent, swimming bare-assed in a frozen mountain lake. He is racing solo up through mountains, snow and wolves. This is my favorite part - just awesome scenery and physical activity. It reminds me a lot of the start of Hanna, a movie with a similar plot - super-agent vs. the agency that built her.

Because while Renner is on his Outward Bound expedition, several Shadowy Government Agencies are shutting down Project Codename with extreme prejudice, killing everyone involved as showily as possibly (to keep it quiet). That includes a drone with a Hellfire missile with Renner's name on it.

In order to stay super-powered, the Renner-class agents need to take drugs they call chems. So Renner needs to get more chems as well as dodging the government kill-squads. He heads to the labs where they have been processing his bloodwork and kidnaps/rescues scientist Rachel Weisz. They fight, travel to Manila, and fall in love.

Renner is way different from Damon's Bourne. The first time he opens his mouth, he comes across as a kind of amiable Minnesota-born surf bum, or like, you know, whatever. He gets to do grim and determine, of course, but has a kind of lumpy-faced average guy charm that makes him look pretty natural sucking on a beer.

Even though this is not part of the official Bourniverse, it has a very Ludlumesqe quality, with lots of "sitrep" and "delivery systems" and "weapon platform" type dialog. Along with all the project codenames, this made the plot pretty hard to follow - except that it isn't hard to follow, because we know the routine. Also, we love the routine: unrelenting action.

In conclusion, we would watch a trilogy of these new Bournes, but I don't think they will get made.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Might as Well Jump

I had never watched the 1980s series that 21 Jump Street (2012) is based on. All I knew about it was that Johnny Depp was one of the stars and that made me assume he was a pretty boy non-actor, which was a mistake. So I wasn't watching the the Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum movie out of nostalgia, or even to see them poke fun at the old show. I watched because I had heard it was good.

Jonah Hill is a nerdy loser, Channing Tatum handsome jock. They were enemies in high school, but banded together in Police Academy, based on their complementary talents. When they fail to Miranda a biker, they are busted down to the 21 Jump Street program, a revived project from the 80s. Apparently, the police department ran out of ideas and figured nobody would notice that this is a retread - that's a joke from the movie.

You get a lot of this in the first few acts - grossout gay humor, Ice Cube as the angry police captain: "Well guess what, I am black and sometime I get a little angry!", quick crosstalk from Hill and Tatum. But when the boys go undercover in highschool, they get their identities mixed up, so Hill is the phys-ed and drama class guy, and Tatum has to play brainiac. And now they have a chance to replay their high school days, and get it right. Tatum makes friends with the nerds, who help him understand science (and bug cellphones). And Hill meets a girl who likes him.

Now, this personal growth is taking place in a movie about drugs, dick jokes, and media parody. But still.

In conclusion, the investigation they are on involves a new drug called Holy Fucking Shit, which looks like a lot of fun until it kills you. Have movies always made hallucinogens look like this much fun?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Shadow Play

I was pretty much of a Dark Shadows kid - for some part of its 1966-1971 run, I would run to a friend's house after school every day to watch the latest episode of this creepy soap opera. We'd watch at my friend's house because it was on right after school, and his house was close enough to the school that we wouldn't miss the creepy opening.

We watched a few of these on NetFlix a few years ago. We didn't watch for long because 1) It is pretty repetitive, being a soap opera and all and 2) it's pretty creepy. Now, of course, we recognize Joan Bennett (classic movie star, going back to the early talkie days), but the show is all about Jonathan Frid as Barnaby Collins. He is amazing in the role: attractive yet ugly, regal, tortured, tender and brutal. So we were quite interested to hear that Johnny Depp was going to try on his dentures.

The trailer's for Depp and Tim Burton's Dark Shadows (2012) were a little puzzling: Would this be an outright parody, or just a camped-up remake? Or even serious horror? It turns out there's a bit of everything, but comes closest to parody, based mainly on the colonial-era vampire's disorientation at discovering himself in the the 1970s. The rebellious daughter from the original show is taken over the top here by Chloe Grace Morentz, with a blacklight poster infested bedroom. Her idea of a classy party involves a floor show by Alice Cooper, playing himself (nice performance of the Ballad of Dwight Fry).

I'll skip over Michelle Pfeiffer's fine Elizabeth Collins and Helena Bonham Carter's delightful drunk psychiatrist, and just mention in passing Johnny Lee Miller as Roger Collins. He hits just the right note of cowardly ineffectual businessman/empty suit. In fact, Roger's classic tweed suits over turtlenecks were one of my favorite parts - spot-on imitations of the original Roger Collins' look.

But what about Barnabus? I really think Depp is a great talent, but sadly he is no Jonathan Frid. Where Frid was a rugged, wrecked beautiful monster, Depp is a baby-faced cutie with a silly haircut. He just doesn't have the same gravitas.

Nonetheless, this is a fun film, funny and sometimes surprising. Towards the end, they let the soap-opera-style plotting get out of control, which is just what it needed. They should have gone that way sooner, with a little less in the way of stage setting.

It ends with a great setup for a sequel, which I assume will never happen. So I went out and bought Sleepy Hollow instead.