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 know I'm late to the party but I saw DR. STRANGE on DVD for the first time today.

If only Marvel Comics were this good anymore.

From their appearance it looked like Mars needed men a lot more than they needed women.

Just watched Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and recommend it. It's Tim Burton's adaptation of a novel by the same name. It's a fanciful take on Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and very enjoyable.

Miss Peregrine is played by Eva Green, and several well-known stars appear. Samuel L. Jackson gets to be a very evil villain. The battle between the "hollows" and the animated skeletons is reminiscent of Harryhausen, on steroids.

I've actually seen this one! I have to add it to the "so bad it's good" category. Who can forget such memorable scenes like the one during which the Martian Princess points at a captured Earth woman ordering that she be allowed to "inspect" the captive; or, such great acting as that seen at the pool party, wherein a party goer walks to the edge of a diving board, pauses and turns toward the camera, and breaks into a dance. Great stuff all around! p

Jeff of Earth-J said:


“When an atomic war on Mars destroys the planet's women, it's up to Martian Princess Marcuzan and her right-hand man Dr. Nadir to travel to earth and kidnap women for new breeding stock. Landing in Puerto Rico, they shoot down a NASA space capsule manned by an android. With his electronic brain damaged, the android terrorizes the island while the Martians raid beaches and pool parties.”

That the cyborg (or “android”) is a “Frankenstein” is really a bit of a stretch. Damaged when its capsule is shot down, half of its face is destroyed right down the middle. The Martian Princess wears an Egyptian-style headdress with what look like multiple “rabbit ear” antennae mounted on top. Dr. Nadir looks a bit like Jon Lovitz. He delivers in lines in a… shall we say “unique” manner. All of the Martian men have badly applied bald-head wigs and pointed ears that look as if they wear sculpted from clay. The captured Earth women are all pretty docile under the circumstances. The soundtrack is made up of original songs by groups I have never heard of. The songs aren’t bad, but they’re not very good, either. “Frankenstein” finally fights the titular space monster in the last five minutes of the film.

I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys campy goodness such as Teenagers from Outer Space.

Morgan (2016)

This is a low key sci-fi thriller about an artificial life form. The great cast and high production values elevate it beyond the level of a TV movie. I enjoyed this for what it was but nothing really wowed me. Has some similarities to Ex Machina: a better film from a couple years ago.

Some movies I've watched this week:

Arrival- This was a sci-fi flick that had a lot of buzz. I was afraid it was going to be like Contact but it was slightly different and more entertaining. I really enjoyed this one.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates- This was funnier than I expected. Probably not a movie for everyone but I enjoyed it.

Independence Day Resurgence- I have fond memories of the original. This one, however, did not hold my interest. Too many underdeveloped characters and well, I don't know I just didn't care for it.

Fate of the Furious- This was actually much better than expected. The action was good but the story while not spectacular was a little more thought out with some twists.

Batman Returns- It's been a while. This was a very odd movie, odder than I remember it being. Also, not a lot of Batman in it.

The Specialist- This is a flick from 94 with Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone.  Not a particularly interesting premise and the action scenes were just OK. All in all pretty forgettable though.

FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER: This 1958 movie is not to be confused with the daughter who met Jesse James a couple of posts back, in fact, she is “daughter” metaphorically only (as in victim). However, there is a Frankenstein descendant in this movie, Oscar, however he uses the last name “Frank.” I dodn’t know whether Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein was period or contemporary, but I could see “Oscar Frank” related to Gene Wilder’s Frankenstein, either a father or a son as the case may be. Like John DeRubbo said about Frankenstein vs, the Space Monster, I would put this one in the “so bad it’s good” category.

REPTILICUS (MST3K): This is the first offering in the new MST3K, available on Netflix since last Friday. This a great movie for MST3K fodder, but when looking at one of these one must also consider the jokes. They put a lot of time (too much?) setting up the back-story, and it was a little hard, at first, getting used to different folks in the chair. There was one point at which it seemed they almost forgot to make jokes, but they came back they returned with a vengeance. A worthy successor to the original.

KONG: SKULL ISLAND: Finally got around to seeing this at the theater over the weekend. I had intended to re-watch the Jack Black version first, but oh well. That is ONE… BIG… APE! After the original and two remakes, I’m glad they decided to take a different direction. There’s no taking this ape back to New York City, baby! I hear next in the works is a match-up between King Kong and the King of the Monsters. I’m looking forward to it, but it will be a tough decision who to root for.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I dodn’t know whether Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein was period or contemporary....

IIRC, before heading off to the castle, Gene Wilder's character is a college professor in a contemporary classroom, which would make it 1974.

Watched a couple of movies last week:

Charlie Wilson's War: A strangely fizzy look at the wheeling and dealing Congressman Charlie Wilson had to do to secure US aid to the Afghans during the Russian invasion in the 80s. It's directed by Mike Nichols, from a script by Aaron Sorkin. (The first scene has a nice in-joke: a Hollywood type pitches Wilson, played by Tom Hanks, the idea of a nighttime soap set in Washington DC -- sort of a proto-West Wing. "It'll be like Falcon Crest in Washington!") Some other good performances by Julia Roberts and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

The success naturally turns to tragedy, when, once the Russians are expelled, we completely abandon the country despite Wilson's objections. There's a point where Hoffman's intelligence agent is working to convince Wilson that there'll be unintended consequences to their victory. "Listen," he says, dumping his drink in a potted plant. "LISTEN." And as he takes a pause before he speaks, all the audience hears is a plane flying overhead. And the haunting sound of those engines makes the argument for the 2007 audience before Hoffman says another word. Great scene. 

Also I watched Ernst Lubitsch's The Love Parade, a 1929 musical starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. It's bubbly and fun, with Chevalier playing a lothario who gets called back to his home country of Sylvania because he's causing too many scandals in France, and then he becomes consort to the Queen...and starts bristling as he's basically expected to be arm candy for her.  Something I read about Chevalier -- he had a lower class French accent, something that relegated him to bumpkin roles in his home country. When Lubitsch cast him as an aristocrat, he thought he'd be unbelievable in the role, but Lubitsch assured him that to Americans, any French accent is the height of sophistication! 

I watched a different Chevalier film recently, Love Me Tonight (1932). Halliwell's Film Guide calls it "one better than the best of Lubitsch and Clair", but I thought it didn't live up to that line at all and hated it for that. (I watched it with relatives, and promised them a good movie.) The female lead is Jeanette MacDonald. Myrna Loy has a supporting role that isn't important to the plot.

What surprised me is it seems to be the specific movie the Pepé Le Pew cartoons were based on. There's a bit where Chevalier shouts "I love you! I love you!" after MacDonald after he's just met her. There's also a hunt sequence where a deer gambols unhurriedly with a gait exactly like Le Pew's. (I didn't know deer did that.) And I'm not sure Le Pew's lady love wasn't modelled after MacDonald, but that might be a stretch.

Oh man -- I'd forgotten that Le Pew was modeled on Chevalier! I'd never seen one of his movies before. 

The Love Parade was the first of four movies in a Criterion box set of Ernst Lubitsch musicals. The other ones are Monte Carlo, The Smiling Lieutenant, and One Hour With You, none of which I've seen yet (and at least a few of which star Chevalier). I bought it after falling head over heels for a later Lubitsch film, Trouble In Paradise, which is one of my favorite romantic comedies ever. The Love Parade is a bit more primitive -- I think it was Lubitsch's first talkie, and I think I read it was the first musical that wasn't a revue -- but it still has that winking adult humor that I love.  

The cartoons of the '30s and '40s sometimes used movie stars as models, and while the audiences of the day enjoyed the joke, the cartoons were later re-run to young audiences on TV in the '60s (like me) who weren't familiar with the movie stars in question. It's a testament to the quality of those cartoons that often they held up without needing the audience to be familiar with the source material.

As I grew older, I became aware of actors who informed the cartoons, especially Peter Lorre. That added an extra layer to cartoons I had enjoyed in my youth. I loved playing pop culture archaeologist, tracing topical jokes back to their origin in the pop landscape.

I remember once as a child watching a cartoon where Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (I think) ran through the Hollywood Canteen. I didn't know what the Hollywood Canteen was, but everybody was in uniform, so I assumed (correctly) the cartoon was made during World War II. The camera lingered over just about every face, so I guessed (again correctly) that they were movie stars of the time that a '40s audience would know. The only ones I recognized were George Raft (although I didn't know his name, I just knew the gangster schtick), Jimmy Cagney ("Ya dirty rat, ya killed my brother, see? See?" -- everybody always did that on Johnny Carson) and Clark Gable. I made a vow then to watch that cartoon someday in the future and know everyone they showed.

I forgot all about that vow, but years later I did see that cartoon, and I did know all the stars. It was just chance, but sometimes the universe circles back.

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