Saw a Takashi Miike picture called The Great Yokai War. "Yokai" is a Japanese term for monsters from folklore, as opposed to the more familiar kaiju. It's a kids' picture, about a young boy from Tokyo sent out to live in the countryside with his older sister and his intermittently senile grandfather. When a vengeful spirit appears, the boy gets caught up in a war between warring groups of yokai and must find his courage to become the "Kirin Rider", the hero who will set everything to rights. It's not a bad picture - nothing deep, but an amusing story. Some of the yokai are really trippy, Japanese folklore can get pretty "out there", apparently.

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I just saw Charles Laughton in Island of Lost Souls (1932) and his smug and sinister performance makes the film a classic. Obviously the concept not only crossed a line but stomped on it!

It had an Universal logo, then a Paramount logo. I had forgotten about that, probably because Laughton and Bela Lugosi were in it that it was always an Universal picture!

Also unforgettable was Kathleen Burke as Lota the Panther Woman. Her body language was incredible, she was silent and feline while looking for any honest affection.

I've recorded it but haven't watched it yet. Sounds like I'll enjoy it.

Philip Portelli said:

I just saw Charles Laughton in Island of Lost Souls (1932) and his smug and sinister performance makes the film a classic. Obviously the concept not only crossed a line but stomped on it!

It had an Universal logo, then a Paramount logo. I had forgotten about that, probably because Laughton and Bela Lugosi were in it that it was always an Universal picture!

Also unforgettable was Kathleen Burke as Lota the Panther Woman. Her body language was incredible, she was silent and feline while looking for any honest affection.

We recently watched Saving Grace (2000). The film stars Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson, who also co-wrote it. After her husband's suicide, a woman finds that he was deeply in debt and had mortgaged everything to the point she will soon be homeless. She happens to be a talented hothouse gardener, so a local fisherman asks her to help him grow some marijuana plants for him. They're so successful, she may be able to save her house if she can make the sale in time. Martin Clunes appears as Dr Martin Bamford, the precursor of Dr Martin Ellingham in the tv series, Doc Martin. I liked the movie, but my wife did not.

Next, we watched Doc Martin, a 2001 made-for-TV prequel that showed how Dr. Bamford came to live in the village of Port Isaac. We both enjoyed this movie more than Saving Grace. There are lots of familiar faces here. Neve McIntosh is just stunning.

We followed it up with Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie (2003). Dr Bamford finds a house in Port Isaac he wants to buy, but it's ripped away from him by a new family coming into town. He decides to try to scare them out of the house. This one was fun.

The TV movies were intended to continue as a series of feature-length films, but the production company folded after these two, so the character and setting were reworked into the Doc Martin TV series.



Richard Willis said:

I've recorded it but haven't watched it yet. Sounds like I'll enjoy it.

And I did!

Philip Portelli said:

I just saw Charles Laughton in Island of Lost Souls (1932) and his smug and sinister performance makes the film a classic. Obviously the concept not only crossed a line but stomped on it!

It had an Universal logo, then a Paramount logo. I had forgotten about that, probably because Laughton and Bela Lugosi were in it that it was always an Universal picture!

Also unforgettable was Kathleen Burke as Lota the Panther Woman. Her body language was incredible, she was silent and feline while looking for any honest affection.

Still cleaning out my DVR in preparation for cutting the cord.

Bogey Section

THE PETRIFIED FOREST wasn't nearly as impressive as I heard it was. It seemed very stage-y -- most of it took place in a single room, and it was really talky -- so I assume it began as a play, or at least the film was adapted from a play. I'm not motivated to look it up; I only mention this directorial approach because of its downsides, which are that it mostly takes place in a single room (with the photogenic petrified forest right outside!) and it was really talky. Boy, that Leslie Howard can really talk, can't he?

And talk he does. Spoiler, he has "suicidal" all over him from the get-go, as he mentions death pretty quickly (in more or less positive terms) and mentions it twice more before Humphrey Bogart even shows up. Mentally, I saw him in a red shirt, despite this being a B&W movie.

Bogey plays a gangster with an admirable personal code. Shocking, I know. This was fairly early in his career (1936) and it seemed to me that he hadn't perfected the on-screen Bogart character that he would play over and over again. He actually seemed to be working out some of the expressions and mannerisms of that character as I watched. Some he retained, some he didn't. And he wasn't the star. (Howard was.)

This movie also had a 28-year-old Bette Davis. Once again, this is an actor who hadn't yet become an icon who would play the same character over and over. I've never found Davis particularly attractive -- the famed "Bette Davis eyes" creep me out -- but she's pretty here, and pretty bosomy, and convincing as an innocent naif. I can see why she would keep getting hired until she did become an icon.

More spoilers: Howard gets his wish, and Bogart gets caught as I assume the Hayes Code says he must. I know, I know, shocking.

HIGH SIERRA: If there's a generic Bogart movie, this might be it. He is the star, a gangster with an admirable personal code who eventually gets killed because Crime Does Not Pay.

While the throughline is predictable, there are some odd cultural bits in the subplots I found interesting -- mainly because I don't know if they really represented what America was like back then, or if they were entirely Hollywood inventions.

One is that Roy Earle, Bogart's character, appears to fall in love with a crippled teenage girl (whose clubfoot he pays to have fixed). I don't know if he really fell in love with her, as there were some heavy hints that Earle subconsciously longed for his early, innocent life on an Indiana farm, and this girl and her family (who were Oakies, I think) represented that to him. But of course, she rejected him in favor of someone she truly loved back in Oklahoma.

But here's the thing: We are clearly supposed to root for Bogey here. Despite the fact that by the time he proposes to the girl, we've seen him shoot two people, one of them fatally. And the movie begins with him getting pardoned for armed robbery after an eight-year stretch. Our boy is no saint -- the opposite, really -- so when was he planning to tell this girl about his "career"? Plus, he's muuuuuuch older, with graying hair, which is commented on in the movie. He is not doing a good thing, chasing after this girl. Why are we supposed to root for him? I do, of course, because he's Bogey. But were people still celebrating criminals like they did in the Depression in 1941, when this movie was made?

We're obviously supposed to root for Bogey. In one scene he drops in for a visit to find that the girl's swain from Back Home has arrived with another couple, and they are drinking and dancing in the living room a little too loudly, a little too brashly and a little too out of control. And the swain, it is pointed out, is "already 30 and divorced!" It is implied that the swain has been getting our teenager drunk on the regular, and we can only assume what happens next (because the Hayes Code won't let the movie tell us). We are not supposed to like these jitterbugging modern people, so much so that Bogart himself points it out.

"I don't like you, and I don't like your friends, and I don't like the way you talk." (They are insolent to Bogey's friend, the elderly "Pa.") But the girl takes the swain's side, and Bogey leaves in a huff. Also in a car, with Ida Lupino.

Which leads me to my other curious observation about this movie, in that the "old guard" -- Bogey and his longtime criminal friends -- are constantly lamenting the passing of an era. The new breed of criminal, and of American citizen, isn't to their taste. One of Bogey's friends actually refers to them as "these jitterbugs."

How am I supposed to feel about this? Sure, the youngsters in this movie are, in fact, depicted as shallow, impulsive and stupid. But Bogey is humorless and absolutely lethal, as I must assume his friends are. In fact, one of the people Bogey kills is one of these Old Guard guys, who was trying to kill him. Are they really more admirable than the young Turks? The movie seems to think we should think so.

Anyway, everything turns out as you'd expect (and as the Hayes Code probably mandated). Ida Lupino plays her role pretty well, a bad girl who is trying to "crash out" of her life into something better. She's very young, and very pretty, as well.

But the best part is the loyal dog Pard. Played by Zero (according to the credits), he is a very good boy.

THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE is a movie I've seen as an adult, but we watched it again, because my wife hadn't.

She fell asleep, even before the "steenkin' badges" scene, so all is for naught. But I did enjoy seeing Bogart's character slowly sliding into madness, which appeared to be actual acting. Well done, Humphrey.

Tim Holt is also in this movie, which rings a bell. Weren't there some Tim Holt cowboy films? And attendant comics? I seem to remember that some famous character debuted in the back of Tim Holt comics (the Western Ghost Rider, maybe?) but figure it's quicker to ask you guys than to look it up.

Ancient Egypt Section

We watched the three modern Mummy movies with Brendan Fraser. I'd never seen them before, although I've seen most of the Universal ones and the most recent one with Tom Cruise. Figured I should complete the set.

THE MUMMY (1999) was really a lot of fun. It was something of a caper movie, moving quickly and forcing the characters to think quickly. They did, which was wonderful -- so many of these kinds of movies the audience is two or three steps ahead of the script. Not the case here. If it was a book, we'd call it a page-turner.

Brendan Fraser, who has not aged well in Doom Patrol, was very young here and not all unattractive. And very good at walking the fine line between self-awareness and self-parody. (In the second movie, when told of a mummy, he deadpans that they need to stop it before it destroys the world. "How did you know?" says the Egyptologist. "That's how the story always goes.") Some of the lines would be groaners, except that Fraser delivers them with tough-guy deadpan, so they work. He knows he's in a ridiculous situation, but he's quite aware it's a deadly ridiculous situation, so he better take it seriously. Bravo.

Rachel Weiscz is here, and plays an adorable character adorably. Really, this is a swell movie.

I am less enamored of THE MUMMY RETURNS. In addition to the titular menace (Billy Zane), all the regulars return as well, including Fraser, Weicsz, and British actor John Hannah as comedy relief. But this time the moviemakers seem to have A) gone a bit overboard, and B) taken too many cues from Indiana Jones. There's a lot more swashbuckling, which is often unconvincing, and a lot more spectacle, like a jet-powered dirigible (in 1942), which is even less convincing. And the actors are starting to fall over the line into self-parody.

Also, both Rick "Ricochet" O'Connell (Fraser) and his wife (Weiscz) are revealed to have connections to ancient Egyptian stuff -- O'Connell has a birthmark that indicates he's part of an ancient order dedicated to containing mummies (?) and Weiscz is the reincarnation of the daughter of the king who was betrayed by his wife and his chief religious guy (Zane), who had had an affair, which is how Zane got mummified alive and cursed and so forth. How convenient!

Also, Fraser and Weiscz have a child, who is, of course, irritatingly precocious. Worse, the pair met in 1937 in the previous movie, and this one is set "five years later," so the boy should be, at best 4 -- but he's 10.

THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR is not very good. We're almost totally in self-parody territory here. Rachel Weiscz's character has been re-cast (which is even obliquely referred to in dialogue, "It's like I'm an entirely different person!"), which is a bummer. The movie takes place in 1947, and now the kid is in college, somehow (and his parents don't look any older).

The Dragon Emperor of the title is given credit for building the Great Wall of China, and being responsible for the terra cotta warriors in the Forbidden City. That's not true, of course, but how many Americans get their history from movies? A lot, I'd bet. Another bummer.

I don't much care for the actor playing O'Connell's son -- he's a bit smirky -- but Michelle Yeoh appears, and is very welcome, as she elevates everything she's in (including Star Trek: Discovery).

There's way too much CGI, including some badly-done Yeti, and a massive set-piece battle between skeletons and the terra cotta warriors at the end which is ... ah, not very good.

I recommend stopping at the first one.

I finally watched "Avatar" this week, 11 years after it was issued and 10 years after I first watched the first ten minutes at a 3D cinema in Birmingham, then the projector broke down and we all got a refund. 

Ok, it's a great film.  The CGI is very impressive and the story, ageless. However much of the story-line reminded me of "Dances With Wolves", a movie that came out 30 years ago.  Indigenous peoples - good, invading hostiles - bad.  Sure, we get it.  BUT - the movie was so violent! This kind of violence I don't need, minutes and minutes of fighting, fighting, fighting. I don't need fighting in movies. I'm 62 years old,and I prefer to see harmonious living. Perhaps this dates back to my hippie upbringing but I fervently believe a movie with a great story (The Lady in the Van - 2015) is much more entertaining than half an hour of fighting. Final result - 7 out of 10, great but not brilliant. 

For anyone who's interested, the Noir City International Film Festival begins this weekend. We'll be watching Panique tonight, and Leave Her to Heaven later this week... and will definitely be digging into more as the fest goes on!

I did stop at the first Mummy movie. Must have been instinct.

THE MUMMY (1999) was the first film that I saw in my local movie theatre when it opened that year. I actually saw it twice in two weeks!

But Billy Zane did NOT play Imhotep; it was Arnold Vosloo who also played Zartan in the GI Joe movies!

Oded Fehr who played Ardeth Bay was the voice of Doctor Fate in Justice League Unlimited.

Rachel Weisz had my attention, that's for sure!

Sadly, the director/writer also did the grossly over-packed VAN HELSING.

Watching The Replacements, a fictionalized sports comedy based on 1987 NFL players' strike. In the movie, the Washington Sentinels put together a team of lovable misfits to finish out the season and make a run for the playoffs. Keanu Reeves plays the replacement quarterback, Gene Hackman is the coach, and Jack Warden is the team owner. It's Warden's final film.

The movie was filmed in and around Baltimore, and the Washington team's home games were filmed there in what was then called PSI-Net Stadium. So, naturally, when movie's Washington team played an away game in Baltimore, they filmed it at R.F.K. Stadium in Washington. 

 

I liked Van Helsing.

Philip Portelli said:

THE MUMMY (1999) was the first film that I saw in my local movie theatre when it opened that year. I actually saw it twice in two weeks!

But Billy Zane did NOT play Imhotep; it was Arnold Vosloo who also played Zartan in the GI Joe movies!

Oded Fehr who played Ardeth Bay was the voice of Doctor Fate in Justice League Unlimited.

Rachel Weisz had my attention, that's for sure!

Sadly, the director/writer also did the grossly over-packed VAN HELSING.

We've started watching MST3K movies we recorded quite a while ago to clear up room in our queue to record more Bonanza. Ever since we've been married, I have been unable to convince Tracy to watch any Ed Wood movies with me, but I've been able to sneak The Violent Years and Sinister Urge past her under the guise of MST3K.

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