Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Harryhausen and movies

My taste in art runs pretty broad, whether that be visual or audio.  I'm not as informed on the literary world, and tend to enjoy specific genre, though surprise myself occasionally.   I'm pretty open-minded about the medium, and appreciate a lot of different styles.  The above is a Ray Harryhausen sketch that a friend sent me a link to, which if you are a fan of his films, you might enjoy looking at some of the other sketches on that site as well. 

Here's lately on cable we got two new networks.  One is El Rey network, which I'm not sure what their target audience is, but I'd say action, adventure, and perhaps exploitation.  They have been showing a lot of martial arts films lately, along with some spaghetti westerns.  I tend to enjoy the spaghetti westerns more because I've always enjoyed westerns.  My dad did too, which is probably when I was exposed to them.  The martial arts films, mostly coming out of the Shaw Brother's production studio, is more (no pun intended) foreign to me.  I just don't know much about them or their creators, and didn't really know who the Shaw Brothers were.  But overall, they are pretty fun too once you can acclimate your mind to that genre.

One of the things I think the El Rey network could probably do, however, is perhaps mix things up a  bit more.  From their commercials and trailers they plan on showing a lot other things, which I'm in favor of, and it might be good to introduce some of that as well like maybe some blacksploitation, some Godzilla (which I'm hoping they'll show) and maybe some crime movies.  But, yeah, it's been a welcome channel for sure.  Some time back Suddenlink (the cable company I'm with) cut off MTV and VH1 (no big loss to me at all), but they also cut off the Comedy channel too (which I didn't mind too much though I did like watching the Colbert Report and Jon Stewart).  I thought that part sucked.  Too tell you the truth after that there wasn't a heck of a lot on Suddenlink except, TCM, which gets pretty repetitive at times, though still a pretty classy channel, and PBS, probably a mainstay for me. 

So I was thinking of just dropping my cable bill down to a minimum--the first 15 channels or so, saving about half on the cable bill, and then picking up more Netflix, or maybe even going Amazon Prime, which would open up to a few things that Netflix doesn't have.  With Amazon Prime, you get access to their movies and series, along with instant shipping too.  So I could have gotten that, and it still would have been cheaper than what I'm paying for my cable bill, and there's so much drek on cable anyway.

But for now, I'm sort of happy to watch El Rey for a bit longer, and they also picked up BBC America, which has been showing some of the newer Doctor Who series, and I've missed many of those episodes (though I wish they'd also include some of the older Dr. Who as well) so I'm sort of hanging with it for a while longer.

I grew up and watched the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns: A Fist Full of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  I remember how odd these films were when I first saw them, compared to say, the John Wayne or James Stewart westerns. They had a certain authentic look and feel to them.  They were a bit different from American westerns, which had violence in them, but the spaghetti westerns went a bit further with that, everything was a bit sweatier, filthier, whore-ier, and ugly.  It's hard to beat those soundtracks by Ennio Morricone too.  They had a hipness about them with that twangy guitar, almost 007-like or a very '60s feel to them.  I went and bought the Hugo Montenegro soundtrack album.  It wasn't the "official" soundtrack, but I got more bang for my buck with it, getting several movie themes from it. 
So all these years later, watching some of these lessor known westerns has been a lot of fun.  I finally got to see the original Django and Django Kill movies, which were pretty good.  Maybe better that the remake, thought I enjoyed them all.  They've also shown: Keoma, about a mixed race Indian that returns to restore order after the Civil War.  It was pretty good, but had some horrible songs on the soundtrack, which would take me out of the movie a bit by an annoying female singer that sounded a bit like the 60's singer, Melanie Safka, (which probably no one remembers today), but she wasn't anywhere near as good.  There was also a male singer who seemed to mimic Leonard Cohen too, but wasn't as good either.  The story was pretty decent however. 

They also showed, Companeros, which was odd in its structure, and had moments of comedy between the two main actors, and I thought stayed way from cliched storytelling.  Which seems to be another feature of these spaghetti westerns, it's hard (or was for me) to predict how some of the protagonist would get their way out of a jam.  Sure you'd figure the good guy would win in the end, but it's hard to predict how.

Some of the others they've shown were: The Grand Duel with Lee Van Cleef, and Texas, Adios.  Like I said, they've all been pretty fun to watch.

I also got to see, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which I enjoyed a great deal.  Life Itself, which is a documentary on the life of Roger Ebert.  Being a long time fan of the Siskel and Ebert's PBS program, At The Movies, it was a sad, but interesting tribute to the man.  It's too bad there isn't something similar on TV somewhere these days, but I guess all that has been relegated into Youtube these days. 

Whiplash was pretty good, and fairly engaging to watch, but fairly unbelievable too.  I enjoyed the action and mythology building of John Wick, and would probably enjoy another in the series, if they could come up with  a decent story.  Gone Girl was pretty good too.  I enjoyed trying to figure out who was the good guy and who was the antagonist, and which way this crazy crime mystery was going to go and how it would end up.  Finding Vivian Maier was an unusual documentary on a Chicago photographer and nanny that was not famous in the normal sense of the word, she was just an average person that pursued photography really out of her hobby and joy in life.  She did not get famous or work for a high prestigious New York magazine.  She just enjoyed taking hundreds of pictures.  Boyhood, yes, I enjoyed it.  I watched it nearly twice.  Raw Deal, yes, the old action Schwarzenegger film.  I'd never seen it, and it wasn't great, you kind of knew what you were going to get, but it was a lot of fun, if you've never seen it.  Four Horsemen is a documentary I found on Youtube about our current state of affairs: terrorist, the debt-based economy, lobbying, etc. It's sort of similar to the film, Inside Job.  I think both films are worth watching and would like to know more about such things and cures as well.


At 2:29 PM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

I've had a similar notion about cutting the satellite bill -- for all the channels I watch regularly only a handful of them. Even upping pay-per-view selections probably still would be cheaper.

I remember Melanie well, especially if I've been tippling. See my June 2014 post about hangovers; her song Leftover Wine was playing during my first full-fledged one.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

Melanie at least had the hit with the Roller Skate Song back in the day. I'm not sure how large her career was, but I imagine she did well with it.

I saw a news blurp the other day where Apple either was developing or thinking of entering the cable market. They've got enough money to do such things, so I hope they do it, and renovate the market much like Netflix did for movie watching. (Disclaimer: Besides I've got some Apple stock). ;P

At 3:47 PM, Blogger Roman J. Martel said...

Yeah I had my first experience with the Eastwood westerns last year. All three were on Netflix and I really enjoyed them. I think "For a Few Dollars More" was my favorite. Lee Van Cleef was a real bad ass in that one and had more screen time than he did in "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" which was good, but felt a little too long. The music is great stuff.

Morricone is really an amazing composer and has done some real classic film scores. He did some work in Hollywood in the 80s and 90s and provided some classic scores like "The Mission" and "The Untouchables".

Glad you liked "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes". That one really pulled me in too. Really liking this new version of the apes saga.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger El Vox said...

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly may seem a bit long, I'd agree, but I think Eli Wallach stole the scenes in that one. He had a fun part. It's been so long since I've seen For A Few Dollars More, I need to revisit it. I was in a pawn shop and they had all three films all in one package, and I should have picked it up for two bucks. I don't know why I didn't.

I'd forgotten Morricone had done the music for The Untouchables. It's a good movie.

Yeah, that last Ape film was a lot of fun, I'll probably have to pick up a DVD copy for my library. Now I look forward to the third film. There is still some good SF out there.


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