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 do not know how I completely missed The Station Agent, a low key Indie drama/comedy from 2003 starring Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams, and Raven Goodwin, but it's a perfect low-key film about a man who inherits a small town train depot-- and escaping loneliness. or trying.

I liked The Station Agent a lot. The director later went on to win an Oscar for Spotlight, right? I'm pretty much happy to see whatever Tom McCarthy directs at this point. (Win Win was another good one.)

On a completely different tack, I watched Ted Geoghegan's Mohawk on Netflix the other night -- a slightly supernatural action thriller set during the War of 1812. Calvin -- one member of a polyamorous thruple (a Mohawk man and woman, and a British man) -- starts a conflict that breaks the Mohawk neutrality in the war, and sets American hunters on them. It's pretty brutal, and some of the acting seems more "modern" than you might expect in a period piece, but man, is it effective. There's a little bit of exposition when it begins, but as soon as the action hits -- and it is soon -- it doesn't let up. It's a cycle of violence, and it leaves no one unscathed. And Ezra Buzzington, as the leader of the hunters, is relentless and terrifying. 

I think I've mentioned that I'm taping a bunch of old movies from TMC that I've heard about and never seen. Last night I queud up one that I was kind of jazzed about: Ride the High Country,

I'd never heard about it before, but it was directed by Sam Peckinpah and starred Randolph Scott as an old gunhand. TMC touted it as a classic.

"Wow," I thought. "That sorta sounds like The Wild Bunch." Which, of course, is an awesome movie. It starred William Holden as the aging gunslinger, but he's in the same neighborhood.

Turns out Ride the High Country is pretty terrible. Cliched, implausible and with a chintzy 1960s TV soundtrack. (I recognized some bits from Star Trek. Come to think of it, Mariette Hartley is in this movie, and she was in a memorable Star Trek as well.) 

I haven't got much good to say about it. 

LADY SINGS THE BLUES: I finally talked Tracy into watching this one with me, but it wasn’t as good as I had remembered. I think it’s mostly factual but also highly fictionalized. Much of what I have learned about Billie Holiday since I first saw this film wasn’t even mentioned. I was first introduced to Billie Holiday as a freshman in college via a class titled “Jazz, Pop and Rock,” an entry level course. I was in Marching Mizzou and didn’t need the music credit (which is why most freshmen took it), but I was interested in the subject matter. The course had two professors: one for “jazz” and one for “rock.” I was impressed by the music the jazz professor was able to dig up. Then, years later, I found “The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz” in a used record store (back when you could only buy it through the Smithsonian if you were a member) and realized that set comprised his entire syllabus! But I digress. Most of what I want to say about Lady Day would be better served on the “What Are You Listening To?” discussion.

The movie is a good introduction to Billie Holiday, but what i really need to watch is a good documentary about her life. Anyone know of one?

A documentary is apparently in production right now, and there was one I saw on PBS in the 1980s. I seem to recall it being good, but I knew almost nothing about her then, other than a few songs.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

LADY SINGS THE BLUES: I finally talked Tracy into watching this one with me, but it wasn’t

The movie is a good introduction to Billie Holiday, but what i really need to watch is a good documentary about her life. Anyone know of one?

Brightburn

I watched this last night not knowing what to expect.  This is basically a horror movie based on the origin story of Superman and falls somewhere between Supes and the Maximortal.  Very gory and nihilistic but definitely entertaining in spots.

I started watching Jaws 2 last night. It's a masterclass in how brilliance ain't easy.

I think I saw Jaws 2 before I saw Jaws when I was a kid; it was in theaters in 1978, when I would have been almost 8. I doubt If I'd seen the first Jaws, it would have been on TV. (I'm sure I read the MAD parody by then, and heard the song "Mister Jaws" on Dr. Demento.) For a long time I thought I was conflating scenes in Jaws 2 with Jaws, but there were a few I thought were in Jaws 2 (notably the scene where the kids pull the prank with the fin on their back) that was actually in the original. And there isn't much in Jaws 2 that strikes me as memorable for anything other than the way its shamefully trying to re-enact a scene from Jaws. 

And to think, this is the second-best Jaws movie! How deep IS this barrel, anyway?

"We are here on the beach where a giant shark has just eaten a girl swimmer. Mr. Jaws, how was it?"

"How sweet it is..."

Watched There Goes My Girl from the late 1930s, with Gene Raymond and Ann Sothern. Both are actors I don't recall ever seeing but I did know their names. I learned that A) Gene Raymond isn't a very good actor, and isn't even that good-looking for a leading man, and B) Ann Sothern will do just fine if more famous actresses aren't available. As to the movie itself, if you've seen The Front Page or any of its spawn, this is another one.

That was for research. I wasn't tired so I watched Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? I think that's the name. I saw this one when I was just a lad, and thought it was kinda dumb, and the little squeal that Jayne Mansfield makes in her Marilyn Monroe impersonation really annoyed me. Since I was pre-pubescent I assumed I'd fine Mansfield more, um, charming this go-round. Nope. This is still a kinda dumb movie, and the squeal is reallllly annoying. I did enjoy watching some of the supporting actors, like Joan Blondell and Henry Jones. And Randall is fun, if you turn your brain off.

I also recorded a bunch of Errol Flynn movies from TCM. Flynn is one of those actors I feel like I've seen all his movies, just because of all the parodies I've read and how big his influence has been on pop culture, especially adventure films. But I haven't seen a one! So I watched the first one that came up on the DVR: Dawn Patrol.

And it was pretty good! Yeah, it had a bunch of war-movie cliches -- it's a World War I fighter pilot movie -- but this was from 1938, so I imagine they weren't cliches yet. Heck, this might be the blueprint! The film is old and kinda murky, but that actually enhances the milieu, set as it is in a dirty aerodrome. The flight scenes are obviously primitive F/X, but the film doesn't try to gosh-wow you. THe focus is on the characters, which include not only Flynn but a young Basil Rathbone and an even younger David Niven. And, this being an old movie, it ends rather abruptly without much of a climax. They also make reference to all the people dying in the war and the wars to come often enough that I knew this was released just prior to World War II without having to look it up.

Anyway, it's not Citizen Kane, but if you happen upon it, it's not a bad way to spend an hour and a half.

A couple weeks ago, while my cable was out, I watched Episodes I-III of Star Wars, this time while
listening to George Lucas’s commentary. I am ready to say that understanding where Lucas’s heart was
when he was making these films does make me like them a little more.


Recently, I have re-watched The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Rogue One, and Solo. I think they are all
great movies (I do have nitpicks with The Last Jedi, but they are small).


Now I kind of want to watch some of the computer animated Star Wars cartoons they’ve made.

Under the Silver Lake - I loved the director's first film, the horror movie, It Follows. UtSL is very Hitchcock meets Mulholland Drive meets Inherent Vice. I enjoyed it the more I thought about and read reviews. Long, but meandering with so many plot points.  A cautionary recommendation.

I saw Under the Silver Lake a few months ago, and I think I've come down on the "cautionary recommendation" side of it too. It's grown a bit in my memory since I watched it. But more than anything, it makes me want to watch Mullholand Drive again. 

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