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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Lost in Space aired Wednesday nights at 7:30P on CBS. It was up against Ozzie & Harriet/Patty Duke Show (1965/66), Batman/The Monroes (1966/67) and Legend of Custer/Second 100 Years (1967/68) on ABC, and The Virginian all three seasons on NBC.

Yeah. So I was watching Batman and had no ability to record anything.

Just as well. The second season of Lost in Space was crap. 

I CONFESS: "Priest Montgomery Cliff hears a killer's confession--and is ensared when his vows forbid him to speak and evidence points to him as the prime suspect! Ann Baxter and Karl Malden costar as an ex-flame and a policeman whose attempts to clear the cleric only entrap him further."

Hitchcock cameo: Crossing the top of a fight of steps a minute and a half in.

SON OF GODZILLA: This is one of the Godzilla movies I have seen the least often in the last 20 years. First, because I own it only on full screen VHS (which I discovered last night has a high-pitched squeal running throughout), second, because I think I confuse it with the "imaginary" G-film (All Monsters Attack), and third, because it's simply not very good. How far the franchise has fallen since the original classic! There's really no comparison. Apparently, Godzilla reproduces asexually, but "Minilla" is nowhere near as interesting as the "Baby Godzilla"/"Little Godzilla"/"Godzilla, Jr." trilogy of the Heisei era. And Godzilla is a crap parent, anyway (not that anyone thought he'd make a good dad), using threats of violence to teach lessons.

A group of scientists experiment with climate change on a remote island. In the end, Godzilla and son go into "hibernation" under a heavy snowfall, but I prefer to think that they froze to death. Son of Godzilla is easily... easily... the worst of the series up to this point. 

I kind of like Son of Godzilla.

THE WRONG MAN: "Can a falsely accused man withstand the crushing weight of the justice system? Henry Fonda plays a musician jailed for the crimes of a lookalike robber. Vera Miles is his distraught wife, driven mad by the ordeal. Based on a true story and filmed on New York Locations where actual events happened."

The film also features Harold J. Stone as a police detective and Werner Klemperer as a psychiatrist. Tracy read online that Bonnie Franklin appears uncredited as a little girl in one scene. I wouldn't've recognized her otherwise, but there's no mistaking her if you're expecting it. It's a well-made movie, but I don't necessarily like this kind of story; it gave me bad dreams. It's supposed to have a happy ending (I think), but I dispute that.

CameoSeen in silhouette narrating the film's prologue. Donald Spoto's biography says that Hitchcock chose to make an explicit appearance in this film (rather than a cameo) to emphasize that, unlike his other movies, The Wrong Man was a true story about an actual person.

This is the last Alfred Hitchcock movie I intend to watch for a while. 

I watched Ben Hur (1959) over the last couple of days. It's not bad.  I'm glad I saw it.  It's very well-made.

The main problem is that it's just shy of three-and-three-quarters hours long, so it's not one that I'm going to throw into the machine on a whim.

Like Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet? ;)

BABY CART TO HADES: Adapts "The Virgin & the Whore" and "Wandering Samurai." This one's a bit anachronistic in that revolvers are prominently featured (more sensational than the single-fire musket-type pistols in use at the time the story is set, I suppose). Tracy wouldn't like these so I watch them during the day. A more accurate translation of the Japanese title would be "Perambulator Against the Winds of Death." 

Making up for lost time, we saw Respect, Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), and, on the negative recommendation (disrecommendation?) of the young man in the family, Space Jam: A New Legacy. Also, a couple movies that I wanted to catch a couple years ago but never got to, Miss Bala and Men in Black: International.

  • Space Jam: A New Legacy. was, in a word, terrible. LeBron James isn't half bad as an actor; I've seen other people do a worse job of playing "themselves" (such as, surprisingly enough, Muhammad Ali in The Greatest). But the bald product placement was oppressive and grating. The central conceit is that James' son is taken hostage in the Warner Serververse by an A.I. program named Al G. Rhythm (played by Don Cheadle), and James has to rescue him by beating Al's team in a basketball challenge in cyberspace, where the rules are different. James, with access to all of the superstars in the Warner Serververse, naturally figures on putting together a dream team with the likes of Superman, the Iron Giant, King Kong. This does not happen; he gets the Looney Tunes, because Bugs Bunny secretly sabotages his efforts. There's more, but suffice to say, I laughed exactly twice.*
  • Miss Bala is an American remake of a Mexican film, a potboiler in which Gina Rodriguez (of Jane the Virgin) plays Gloria, who crosses the border from Los Angeles to Tijuana with best friend Suzu for a night on the town, where Suzu hopes to dazzle the police chief so she can compete in the Miss Bala Beauty Pageant. Unfortunately, an army of gun-toting goons busts in on the nightclub and shoots the place up. Gloria gets separated from Suzu, and her efforts to find her pal gets her mixed up with a drug cartel and the DEA, as the gangsters trick her into blowing up a DEA safehouse. There is lots of gunfire and lots of dead bodies before she gets out of this mess.
  • Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is an antidote to 50 years of propaganda about Woodstock. That same year, there was a six-week concert series, the Harlem Cultural Festival, featuring the top Black musical acts of the day. The lineup included Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, The Fifth Dimension, Nina Simone, The Staples Singers, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, and more. Never heard of it? That's because the 40 hours of footage has been in a basement for 50 years. The producer acquired the footage, and Questlove (of The Roots, the house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon), curated and directed it, interspersing performance clips with interviews of concertgoers and performers from the day, plus news footage to give it context. It's a wonderful time capsule.
  • Men in Black: International. I've never been big on the Men in Black series, and reviews weren't kind to this one, but I liked the chemistry of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in roles other than Thor and Valkyrie. Thompson is a rookie Men in Black agent who has sought her entire life to join; Hemsworth is the star agent, suave and charming, and they team up to find a mole in the organization. 
  • And the best of the lot, Respect, the biopic of Aretha Franklin, starring Jennifer Hudson in the role gifted to her by the Queen of Soul herself.* It's a warts-and-all portrayal, covering her childhood singing at grand parties hosted by her father, the powerful Rev. C.L. Franklin, to a delicately handled portrayal of one of her dad's friends slipping into the 10-year-old's room; to her teen years singing jazz standards for Columbia Records; falling into the sway of Ted White, the controlling and abusive man who becomes her husband and manager; moving from Columbia to Atlantic and, on the advice of Dinah Washington, singing the kind of music she really wanted to do. After that, the hits came -- in both senses of the word. Aretha Franklin was at the top of the charts with stuff like Chain of Fools and Think, but Ted became more and more jealous and abusive until she had to cut him loose. And it took a long time for her to get through the trauma of birthing two children as a result of childhood rape, spiraling into alcohol and depression. The climax of the movie is the triumphant filming of the Amazing Grace concerts, duplicated here, but the showstopper is during the credits, when they play the entire clip of Aretha Franklin serenading Carole King at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors with "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." I usually don't like that kind of thing, but this is just too special to object to. Only Aretha Franklin would casually stride out on the Kennedy Center stage in a floor-length mink with her purse and put it on the piano where she could see it while she played. (Hey, she's played in too many sketchy joints for too many shady promoters to be taking ANY chances.) Watch:

* The one laugh involves a case of mistaken identity; I will say no more because that might be the only laugh you get out of it. The other involves an elaborate gag in which Wile E. Coyote uses a machine that makes several duplicate basketballs, the better to get more shots at the rim, and falls into into it, so the machine makes several duplicate Wile E. Coyotes. At one point, four of them are flying through the air, and they each hold up, in succession, a little picket sign with one word on it; together, the message reads: "What - Have - I - Done?"

** A while back, Aretha Franklin made noises about casting Halle Berry in the part, but fortunately, she came to her senses. I'm sure it was a measure of the immense regard Aretha Franklin had for Halle Berry, but really.

SPINOUT: This is another HPB shrinkwrapped new movie for $4.98, the first of three pictures Elvis made in the year 1966 alone, the 22nd overall (in the last ten year), and the seventh for MGM. In this one, Elvis is a singer/race car driver (it's always a singer-slash-something). He is backed by two guys on guitar and a girl on drums. the group is called "1 + 2 + 1/2." Hmm... I wonder which is which? The name probably represents how they divide the money. In one scene, one of the "2" picks up a trumpet to blow a sax solo. 

Love interest(s): Shelley Fabares, Diane McBain and Deborah Walley. the romances are set up so that Elvis has a rival for each one. There is a big car race at the end and a wedding following that, but who marries who?

Songs: Nine, including Stop, Look, Listen," "Never Say Yes" and the title track, all of them crap. Did you hear what Amber Ruffin had to say about Elvis Presley last week in her segment "Unpopular Opinion" (1:10)?

Clark, I watched Summer of Soul last week and I thought it was just terrific. I will freely admit to being someone who thought the 5th Dimension was a white band. I absolutely loved watching 2 singers from the band watching themselves at the festival.

Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) said:

Clark, I watched Summer of Soul last week and I thought it was just terrific. I will freely admit to being someone who thought the 5th Dimension was a white band. I absolutely loved watching 2 singers from the band watching themselves at the festival.

Yeah, that was really cool, seeing Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis reminiscing about that. And some of the people who went to the event were in tears seeing filmed evidence that it really happened, since nobody's heard about it for FIFTY YEARS!

As for the 5th Dimension, they were in the musical camp with Motown, in that they willfully, deliberately, intentionally tried to appeal to a broad (meaning: white) audience, and part of the strategy was to make album covers that didn't actually have photos of the singers. That changed once the acts were established.

This was different than, say, the likes of James Brown or Chuck Berry or Little Richard, who made the music they wanted to make and you liked it or you didn't; they didn't try to make you like it. But Berry Gordy's Motown was all about getting popular appeal for its product.

THE SNAKE WOMAN: "A doctor in 1890 England, in order to cure his wife's "sick mind", injects her with snake venom. she later gives birth to a daughter whom the villagers call "The Devil's Baby" and in a fit of fear they end up buring the family's house down. Years later a Scotland Yard detective is sent to the village to investigate a rash of deaths that are caused by snakebite." 

This is the last B movie horror on the set of four Tracy chose, but it is not the last B movie horror we will be watching, not is it the last of Tracy's picks. Richard, have you started watching these four yet?

ALL MONSTERS ATTACK: This is the movie I confused with Son of Godzilla... understandable, since this is mainly a clip movie of many of Godzilla's previous battles loosely strung together as the daydreams of a lonely, bullied little boy. the daydreams are interspersed with the real story of the kid being terrorized by school bullies and bank robbers. In the daydream sequences, Godzilla shuffles from one clip to another, with the boy and Minilla, Godzilla's son, tagging along behind. I forgot: Minilla can talk in this one.

As usual this go-round, we watched the English language version ("Godzilla's Revenge"), but the kids were so badly dubbed we also re-watched the first ten minute or so in subtitled Japanese to hear what they really sounded like. As is often the case, some striking differences emerge. For one thing, the theme, Monster March, sung by Lily Sasaki, is a true delight. 

I bought this movie a few years ago when it became available on DVD but was in no mood to watch it at that time. Prior to that, the last time I saw it was on full screen VHS; the widescreen version is far superior. Previously I hated this movie, but now I kind of like it. It would be a good "first Godzilla" movie for a child (four or five years old) because there are lots of monsters, it's short on plot and it's not at all scary. 

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