Lisa’s Week In Review: 3/5/18 — 3/11/18


Movies I Watched

  1. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  3. Clueless (1995)
  4. Coco (2017)
  5. The Criminal (1960)
  6. Ecstacy (1933)
  7. An Education (2009)
  8. Man With A Movie Camera (1929)

Television Shows I Watched

  1. Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby
  2. Back in Time for Tea
  3. Bad Robots
  4. Coronation Street
  5. Dancing on Ice
  6. Frasier
  7. Joanna Lumley’s Trans-Siberian Adventure
  8. Mum
  9. Room 101
  10. Sun, Sex, and Suspicious Parents
  11. World’s Most Extraordinary Homes
  12. The Young Offenders

Books I Read

  1. Anatomy of Scandal by Sarah Vaughan (2018)
  2. Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi (2018)

Music To Which I Listened

  1. Blanck Mass
  2. Jacquemo
  3. Jakalope
  4. Souisxie and the Banshees

Links From The Site

  1. Erin shared both the covers of Utopia and even more covers of Utopia!
  2. Gary shared his thoughts on the Oscars and reviewed The Naked Dawn, Barbary Coast, and Manhattan Melodrama!
  3. Ryan reviewed Combed Clap of Thunder and Dust Pam, along with sharing his weekly reading round-up!
  4. Jeff took a look at the music video for Doctorin’ The TARDIS!

(Curious to see what I watched, read, and listened to last week?  Click here!)

Jeff & I are on holiday until March 19th so, ’til then, have a great week!

Embracing the Melodrama Part III #1: No Down Payment (dir by Martin Ritt)


Back in 2014 and 2015, I did a series of reviews that I called Embracing the Melodrama, in which I reviewed some of the best (and worst) melodramas ever made.  All together, I reviewed 186 films as a part of Embracing the Melodrama, everything from Sunrise to Reefer Madness to The Towering Inferno to Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction.  I had so much fun doing it that I’ve decided to do it again.

No, don’t worry.  I’m not going to attempt to review 186 films this time.  Instead, for Embracing The Melodrama Part III, I am going to limit myself to reviewing 8 films.  I’ll be posting one Embracing the Melodrama review a day, from now until next Sunday.

Let’s kick things off with 1957’s No Down Payment, a film about life in … THE SUBURBS!

(cue dramatic music)

The suburbs!

Is there any place in America that’s more dramatic?  Is it any wonder that, since the early 50s, films have regularly been using the suburbs as an example of everything that’s apparently wrong with America?  Every year sees at least one major film about how terrible life is in the suburbs.  Last year, for instance, George Clooney directed a film called Suburbicon, which was regularly cited as a possible Oscar contender before it was released and everyone was reminded of the fact that George Clooney is a terrible director.  That said, I can understand why filmmakers continue to be drawn to the suburbs.  Secret affairs.  Dangerous drugs.  Duplicitous children.  Fractured families.  Barbecuing alcoholics.  Undercover occultists.  You can find them all in the suburbs!

No Down Payment opens with David (Jeffrey Hunter) and Jean Martin (Patricia Owens) driving down a California highway and looking at the billboards that dot the landscape.  Every billboard advertises a new community, inviting people to make a new and better life away from the crowded city.  David and Jean smile, amused by how blatant all of the ads are.  That’s when they see the billboard that’s advertising their new home:

Sunrise Hill Estates

A Better Place For Better Living

Soon, David and Jean are moving into their new home and meeting their new neighbors.  It turns out that most of the houses in Sunrise Hill Estates are available for “no down payment” and the majority of the residents are struggling financially.  Though David may look at all of his neighbors and say, “Looks like everybody here is living a wonderful life,” the truth is something far different.

(If David’s line sound a bit too on the nose and obvious, that’s because almost all of the dialogue in No Down Payment was too on the nose and obvious.  As a side note, “on the nose” is an extremely strange expression.)

David’s neighbors include:

Herm Kreitzer (Pat Hingle) and his wife, Betty (Barbara Rush).  Herm owns an appliance store and sits on the town council.  Herm is gruff but likable.  He’s the leader of his neighborhood and he welcomes the Martins with a backyard party.  Herm’s employee, Iko (Aki Aleong), wants to move to Sunrise Hill but no one is willing to give him a reference because he’s not white.

Troy Boone (Cameron Mitchell) and his wife, Leola (Joanne Woodward).  We know that Troy is going to be trouble because he’s played by Cameron Mitchell.  We know that we’re going to like Leola because she’s played by Joanne Woodward.  Troy’s an auto mechanic and a veteran.  He wants to be appointed the chief of police but the town is reluctant to hire him because he doesn’t have a college education.  Leola wants to have a child but Troy says that they can’t even think about that until he has a good job.

And then there’s Jerry Flagg (Tony Randall) and his wife, Isabelle (Sheree North).  Jerry is a used car salesman and he’s also a drunk.  Jerry spends most of the movie hitting on other women and embarrassing Isabelle.  Jerry has no impulse control and, as a result, he’s heavily in debt.  His only hope is that he can convince a family to buy an expensive car that they really don’t need.  When last I checked, that’s what a used car salesman is supposed to do.

The film deals with a lot of issues — prejudice, sexism, economic insecurity — that are still relevant today.  Unfortunately, the film itself is a bit slow and what was shocking in the 50s seems rather jejune today.  Watching the film, you get the feeling that, as with many films of the 50s, all of the interesting stuff is happening off-screen.  That said, the film has an interesting cast.  Jeffrey Hunter and Patricia Owens are a bit dull as the Martins but then you’ve got their neighbors!  Any film that features Cameron Mitchell glowering can’t be all bad but the best performance comes from Tony Randall, who is memorably sleazy and desperate as Jerry Flagg.  For a fun experiment, watch this film right before watching Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Tomorrow, we’ll continue to embrace the melodrama with 1961’s Common Law Wife!

Film Review: Hard Hunted (dir by Andy Sidaris)


 

Uh-oh!  A master criminal is trying to sell a nuclear device to terrorists and it’s up to the most secret law enforcement agency in the world to stop him!  How secret is this agency?  It’s so secret that it’s based in Dallas but most of its agents live in Hawaii.  It’s so secret that there’s an entire Hawaiian radio station that exists for the sole purpose of broadcasting heavily coded messages.  It’s the type of agency that continues to employ an agent who can’t shoot a gun and where the completion of successful mission is celebrated with a hot tub party.

As you probably guessed, 1992’s Hard Hunted is an Andy Sidaris film.

Hard Hunted picks up where Do Or Die left off.  Master criminal Kane is still at large and planning to do various evil things.  It’s up to Donna (Dona Speir) and Nicole (Roberta Vasquez) to catch him but their search for him mostly seems to mostly amount to spending a lot of time sunbathing in Arizona.  Fortunately, there are two other agents, currently working undercover as members of Kane’s operation.  Considering how dangerous and evil Kane apparently is, you have to wonder why the agency never just takes out Kane.  I guess that wouldn’t be ethical or something.

In Do Or Die, Kane was an elderly Japanese man who made a big deal about fair play and his code of honor.  In Hard Hunted, Kane is suddenly a young and handsome British man.  He’s played by RJ Moore, who was the son of Roger Moore.  Kane is now charming and sexy and that’s good.  If you’re the type who continually threatens to destroy the world, you should definitely be hot because otherwise, people are going to get sick of you.

Anyway, Kane has a nuclear trigger device that he wants to sell to terrorists.  He keeps the device hidden in a jade Buddha.  One of the undercover agents manages to run off with the trigger so Kane sends his number one henchman, Raven (Al Leong), to retrieve it before it gets into the hands of Donna and Nicole.

There are two things to notice about Raven.

First off, as you can tell from the picture above, Raven wears a jacket with a lion’s hand emblem on it.  Kane is apparently big into branding because all of his henchmen wear clothing with the lion’s head emblem.  It would seem to me that, when you’re a global supper villain, it might be a mistake to advertise yourself but Kane apparently feels differently.

The other good thing about Raven is that he’s played by Al Leong.  Leong, who got his start as a stuntman, is a character actor who has been playing evil henchman since the 1980s.  Leong always brings a lot style to these roles and he does so again in Hard Hunted.  In fact, he’s the second best thing about this largely misbegotten movie, right behind his helicopter.

Anyway, as for the film itself, it’s stupid even by the standards of Andy Sidaris.  This time, most of the action takes place in Arizona.  The biggest plot development is that Donna strikes her head on a rock and spend the latter half of the film suffering from amnesia and being held hostage by Pico (Roberto Obregon).  While Donna’s out-of-commission, it’s up to Bruce (Bruce Penhall), Shane (Michael Shane), and Nicole to step up and take care of the situation.  It’s all typical Sidaris mayhem, with stuff blowing up and final justice being meted out with yet another rocket launcher.

It may not make any sense, but at least it has Al Leong and a helicopter!

Book Review: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming


(SPOILERS)

In 1959, Ian Fleming introduced a character who would go on to become the quintessential James Bond villain.  His name? Auric Goldfinger.

When I reread Goldfinger, Fleming’s seventh Bond novel, I was surprised to discover just how faithful the 1964 film adaptation really was.  True, there were a few differences.  While Jill Masterson was still killed via gold paint, it happened off-stage in the book and long after Bond had already left Miami.  Meanwhile, Jill’s sister, Tilly, survived far longer in the book than she did in the movie.  Pussy Galore, on the other hand, doesn’t appear until the very last few chapters of the book.  There’s no scene with Bond being threatened by a laser.  Goldfinger never laughs and says, “I expect you to die.”

And yet, while reading Fleming’s novel, it was impossible for me not to visualize Gert Frobe and Harold Sakata as Goldfinger and Oddjob.  Outside of the actors who have played Bond, the casting of Frobe and Sakata in the film version of Goldfinger may have been the two best casting decisions in the history of the Bond franchise.  And while that giant laser never made an appearance, Oddjob’s killer hat was present in the novel and loving described by Fleming.

Goldfinger’s lunatic plot to rob Fort Knox is present in both the novel and the book, though it’s somehow even more implausible in the book than in the movie.  What’s interesting is that, from the minute Bond hears about Goldfinger’s plot, Bond continually says that it’s a crazy plan that can’t possibly succeed.  Fleming never makes much of an effort to convince us that Bond could possibly be wrong about Goldfinger’s plan, either.  For once, the threat isn’t that the villain will succeed.  The threat is that Goldfinger will cause even more damage while failing.  Bond’s mission is less to thwart Goldfinger than to contain him.

With a personality that is somewhat reminiscent of Moonraker‘s Hugo Drax, Goldfinger is one of Fleming’s best bad guys.  Though there’s nothing subtle about Goldfinger, his flamboyant and cocky villainy serves as a nice contrast to James Bond’s more serious-minded personality.  Like many Bond villains, Goldfinger is so defined by his single obsession (in this case, with gold) that he doesn’t show any interest in any of the activities — drinking, smoking, having sex — that tend to define Bond as a character.  That’s one of the reoccurring themes to found in Fleming’s work.  Men who do not indulge in “gentlemanly vices” are almost always evil.

It’s a good and entertaining book, marred only by some foolishness towards the end in which Bond is upset to realize that 1) Tilly Masterson is a lesbian and 2) she’s more attracted to Pussy Galore than to him.  In fact, during Goldfinger’s assault on Fort Knox, Tilly ignores Bond’s orders and goes looking for Pussy instead.  (I know, I know.  Stop it.)  Tilly is promptly killed by Oddjob and Bond mournfully considers that she would still be alive if only she had been attracted to men instead of women.

(As I mentioned in my review of Live and Let Die, Fleming may have been a “man of the world” but he was also a product of his time and all the prejudices that went along with it.)

Fleming would follow Goldfinger with a collection of short stories.  The next James Bond novel, Thunderball, would not appear until 1961.  We’ll take a look at it tomorrow.

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/04/2018 – 03/10/2018


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

What did I learn this week? I learned that Vertigo-style comics are still alive and well, they’re just not being made by Vertigo anymore —

Case in point : The Highest House #1 re-unites the team of Mike Carey and Peter Gross from The Unwritten at IDW, and their new publisher is clearly pulling out all the stops, publishing this in an oversized magazine-style format with heavy, glossy covers and slick, high-quality paper. The art is certainly worthy of the presentation — Gross’ detailed, intricate illustrations positively sing from the pages, aided and abetted in no small part by the lush, gorgeous color palette of Fabien Alquier, and the story, centered around a slave boy named Moth who works in a Gormenghast-style eccentric magical castle is old-school Vertigo “high fantasy” all the way. The set-up is fairly simple : Moth makes a deal with a potential devil named Obsidian…

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Music Video of the Day: Happy by Robert DeLong (2013, dir by ????)


It’s a happy song but kind of a disturbing video.

What exactly is happening in this video?  I’ll leave that for you to interpret.  All I’ll say is that it reminds me of my favorite movie about cults, Ticket to Heaven.

Then again, if you can remain happy after slipping in a pool of blood then you’ve obviously achieved something.

Enjoy!