Saturday, August 08, 2015

Recent Watching

Summer has gotten hot, and it has been this way in Texas for a couple of weeks.  I always forget how hot it gets down here until it really hits.  I was hoping it might be more like last year, but that's not the case.  It's just flat out hot and dry here now, and we recently went into a burn ban.  What better time to do something indoors than to watch movies or TV?

Rolling Stone released their picks for best movies of 2015 so far.  I wasn't familiar with some of them so I'll post them here.  I did get out and watch Mad Max: Fury Road some time back, and although I enjoyed the movie, the theater experience wasn't that great.  I've become a real recluse when it comes to that.  I'd just as soon with most movies, watch them at home and avoid all the downsides and distractions of a movie theater experience:  the volume being too loud, obnoxious crowds, cell phones, too hot or cold temperature in the theater, or recently even the threat of a crazed gun nut, etc.  You never know what to expect when you show up sometimes.   I haven't seen the film, Love & Mercy yet, but since I'm a big Beach Boys fan, I look forward to it.  Many years ago they did a made-for-TV movie of the Beach Boys and their trials and tribulations with their career and overbearing father.  For a TV movie, I thought it was pretty good.  I don't think it ever got released, unless it was on VHS for a while.

The TCM channel had noir month in July.  It was pretty cool, and I signed up for the emails that detailed some of the films they were showing, and what to look forward to in them.  I took a more relaxed approach to the course, mainly wanting to read the memos about the films--things to watch out for and why certain films or scenes were spotlighted.  Some had unusual lighting, others it was the set-up or certain key scenes, etc.   Some of them I'd seen before, but a few I had not.

Aside from that I had some trees cut down on my property at the beginning of the week.  Living should be a learning experience, and I'm glad to know I'm still living and learning.  Two things I learned:  When seeking someone to do some work for you, get three bids.  I learned this long ago and it has proven to be good advice that I learned from a friend of mine that was a handyman.  I also was use that rule of thumb, but I saw an ad in one of the Sunday's papers for a tree trimmer, and gave him a call.  The price sounded right and he seemed to be honorable and stand behind his work, which more or less he did.  But I was indifferent to the outcome.  Why?  Well, he didn't quite fulfill his obligation of how he led me to believe the job was going to be performed and what he was going to do.  The first day they left a big pile of limbs and debris in a giant heap right by my driveway, which I told him I wanted that scattered about up in the forest behind my house.  I've got a wooded several acres back there, so space was no problem.  He had to send his workers back over to finish up the job to meet my satisfaction, but even then, I wasn't completely satisfied.  Plus the men he had working for him cut off a tree limb, which hit my cable wire coming into the house, and knocked out my cable.  I had to get the cable company back out here to check on that, which cost me more money.   In the end, however, I guess it could have been worse (one of my mottoes).  At least a limb or tree didn't fall onto my house or do huge damage.  For that, I'm grateful. 

Number two:  Always check on the workers throughout the day to see what kind of job they are doing in case you need to offer some feedback and see if they are doing it according to plan or your wishes.  If I had done that they would not have left the huge pile of limbs and debris by my front driveway.  However as they were finishing up the first day, I told one of the worker, I don't want all that debris in a big pile like that (I can't imagine anyone would).  And he told me, well the boss told me to do it that way, so that's what we do.  I thought, well, I'm the customer and I'm not paying for it to be left that way.  At any rate, they had to come back over the next day and finish up the project.  I'm kinda sorta satisfied.

Third:  Don't pay the handymen until after the job is complete.  I guess I might see paying them half  IF the job is going according to play, but if you withhold paying until after completion that's the only leverage you'll have to getting it done somewhat to your satisfaction.  I'm not totally unreasonable as a customer and don't do a lot of complaining, but I do expect to be satisfied on some level--I think most of us do. 

As far as what I've been watching lately during the summer.   Here's a brief rundown.

I just watched the first disc to the documentary of the Eagles (the California country-flavored rock band), History of the Eagles.  It was pretty good if you are a fan of their music.  For whatever reason, that band had a lot of fans, but just as many detractors.  I never understood this completely.  I mean I can understand not liking certain bands.  I don't care for AC/DC or Aerosmith among many others.  However, I assume someone does enjoy them, so why not just like what I like and not rain on their parade.  Perhaps with the Eagles it was over exposure or jealousy, perhaps some don't like country rock, who knows.  I grew up with them, and still enjoy some of their songs from time to time, so I enjoyed the documentary.

 Too Late For Tears reminded me a bit of A Simple Plan as it addresses the power of money and how it changes people. A couple are driving down a coastal road with the convertible top down on their car and someone passes by them and throws a suitcase filled with money in their backseat. A pretty good noir.

Ex Machina--A pretty well made SF film, though the ending left me thinking and feeling not quite satisfied.  As I reflect back on the movie, I'm not entirely sure why.  Maybe I didn't get the ending or what the director was trying to say.  However, I thought it was a film that was handled intelligently.

The Wrecking Crew--Was a documentary about the studio musicians that played the instruments for so many hits in the 60's, but were basically unknown to the general pubic or music fan buying the albums.  A lot of musicians were included like The Monkees, the Association, Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, etc. plus the Wrecking Crew told how they perceived their job as studio musicians.  If you enjoy that music, check it out.

Flight--Pretty interesting film, and I wondered where it was going until it ended. The director/writer had to fudge with the story a little bit to make it work in certain areas, but overall I thought it was done pretty well.  Since I worked in a heavily regulated industry (railroad) like the airlines, I could certainly relate to the pressure that the airline pilot, Denzel Washington played.  It's not a fun spotlight to be under.  I'm not saying that I had to deal with drugs on the workplace, but there are other incidents and court, like traffic or rail accidents I was brought onto the carpet to explain, with one's job hanging in the balance, etc.  It's not fun.

 The Hitch-Hiker (1953)--Another noir and re-watch, directed by Ida Lupino, worth a watch and fairly intense for its time.  It involves two friends that are going on a fishing trip, and they pick up a hitch-hiker, who turns out to be a psychotic escaped convict that holds them as hostage.

On Dangerous Ground--Again another noir on TCM. I'd seen it before, but missed the set-up when I first saw it. In someways I could compare the hard detective cop played by Robert Ryan to Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, he's a cop that doesn't go by the rules when trying to solve a crime, but who softens up at the end at the end of the picture unlike Harry Callahan.

Jack Reacher--another re-watch for me, and I still think it's a well made Tom Cruise movie where he plays a person that's detached from society, a loner, but gets involved with a case of a soldier he once knew that was a sniper in the military.

 McQ--1974 John Wayne flick that was a departure from his western stuff. He play a detective trying to find out who killed off his friend on the force. The only thing is, he's a bit too old to be playing this type of Dirty Harry part, too overweight, driving around in a hopped-up black muscle car, kicking asses, punching mobsters, and dodging bullets. It's watchable, but mostly for its lack of credibility. I'll admit I didn't figure out who the ultimate bad guy was, so at least there's that.

 The Grand Budapest Hotel--A pretty fun, and colorful Wes Anderson film. I'm not a huge fan of Anderson, but this film made me curious about some of his other work.  It was sort of quirky like the movies of  Jim Jarmusch and reminded me a little of something like O Brother, Where Art Thou? by the Coen Brothers.

Glen Campbell, I'll Be Me--Is a documentary I caught off CNN, but you can find it on DVD now too.  I used to love watching his Glen Campbell comedy hour, and always enjoyed some of his songs on the radio too, like Wichita Lineman.  A bit of trivia, he also grew up in the hometown of Delight, Arkansas, which is where my mother grew up as well.  Also I saw Campbell play live at the HemisFair of Texas in San Antonio in 1968.  I forget the details, but I think we went down there as a family on vacation.  Bob Newhart opened the show and warmed up the crowd with some stand-up comedy, and then Campbell played, which was a good concert.  The documentary, however, is about Campbell's struggles with Alzheimer's Disease and how his family is helping him cope with that, plus delves into some of his past history, and has concert clips, and such.  Although it was sad to see Campbell in such poor health, it had a silver lining in that he has support from his family and everyone that loves him.

It Follows--I really didn't care for this horror film.  For one, it wasn't particularly scary or intense, and also it didn't make much sense to me either or had plot holes.  I'll admit, I'm not a huge modern horror fan.  I used to enjoy them back when I was younger, but either Hollywood doesn't know how to engage me anymore or they're just bad, but either way I don't have much interest in most of them, though the recent The Babadook, was an exception.

American Sniper--I didn't care much for this one either, not for any kind of political reasons or anything like that, it was basically because it was just a boring film for me or too paint by the numbers.  I'd recently seen The Hurt Locker and thought it worked a lot better as far as trying to have some intensity, and showing what soldiers were dealing with in Iraq.

Add to that some TV watching, which includes some Doctor Who, the Jon Pertwee era has been showing on the weekends here on our public access channel, and I've been loving that.  Pertwee and Katy Manning, who plays his companion, make a good team, and many of these episodes have dealt with The Master, who was played very well by Roger Degaldo.  I've been a fan of  The Carbonaro Effect on the TruTV network, which is styled after the old Candid Camera show, but is different in that Michael Carbonaro is a magician, who does magic tricks on people and totally blows their mind, wondering what just happened.  Also on the TruTv, network is Impractical Jokers, which again takes the Candid Camera premise, and has four friends play pranks on the public, by way of trying to embarrass their friend.  I don't laugh a lot at most comedies, but this show I find hilarious at times, at least to my taste.  Those guys are nuts!  

CNN has had a special they been running on Thursday nights about The 70's.  Last year around this time they made one on The 60's hosted by Tom Hanks, and The 70's follows that format, which just highlights some of the top stories and pop culture from those decades.  It's sort of nostalgic for me to re-live some of that stuff again showing anything like Watergate to the music or TV shows from that decade.  It's not perfect, and I wish they discuss or feature other things more, but it is what it is.

That pretty much sums it up, although I'm probably overlooking something.  PBS is my general default channel, and I'll generally watch Antique Roadshow on Monday nights, even if it's a rebroadcast.  They also will at times have live concerts of musical bands, or an Independent Lens or POV (Point of View) special that will interest me.   


At 5:57 AM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

Quite a varied list. My favorite John Wayne movie is his last one "The Shootist"; the irony of the plot did not escape him.

Movie theater violence has a surprisingly long history. In the 1940s and 50s theaters were a favorite target of George Metesky (aka "The Mad Bomber") who blamed his tuberculosis on a workplace accident involving fumes at the Con Edison utility company. (This was an unlikely theory since TB is a contagious infection spread person to person.) I don't know why he thought bombing theaters, libraries and train stations was a way to get back at Con Ed, but he left notes saying that was what he was doing.

At least nowadays we don't worry about polio, which also was a risk in crowded public places like theaters before 1957; it was one factor in the popularity of drive-ins.

The music docs sound interesting. I was never a big Eagles fan, but I don't actually dislike them. AC/DC works for me but Aerosmith's sound annoys me. I'm not sure why but it does.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger El Vox said...

I'm not sure what my favorite John Wayne movie is. It might be The Cowboys, but The Searchers and Red River are really good too. So was the original True Grit. He made many watchable films. I was raised on westerns, and I still enjoy catching a new one I've never seen before. I will say for westerns it's hard to be Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, or Clint Eastwood.

I didn't know about the theater bombings. Who knows why he thought bombing them would revenge Con Ed, but is fairly typical for that sort of deranged type thinking which includes many or our recent gun shootings.

Yeah, The Wrecking Crew, the Glen Campbell film, and the Eagles were all fun to watch. I caught the second disc to the Eagles last night and enjoyed it as well. I love stuff like. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed the Eagles were their harmonies, but they wrote good lyrics at times too.

At 9:13 PM, Blogger Roman J. Martel said...

Wow, you've been on a roll watching a bunch of flicks. I'm curious about "Jack Reacher". I keep hearing good things about it, how it is really a throwback to those 70s cop flicks in style and execution. I'll just have to watch it when my wife isn't around. She really doesn't like Tom Cruise (unless Rifftrax is making fun of him).

I'm curious about "It Follows", it got some really good reviews when it came out. Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy it. But yeah, "The Babadook" was really good. It's funny because "On Deadly Ground" is one I only know because of the excellent musical score by Bernard Herrmann (of Hitchcock and "Psycho" fame). I have a track from that film on a Gerhardt rerecording and it is amazing. Herrmann was really a master of suspenseful thriller music.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

I meant to say above: It's hard to beat a John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, or Clint Eastwood western.

Roman, I think you'll enjoy Jack Reacher, maybe even your wife too. Granted I can understand why Cruise may have detractors, but I think his movie projects have improved lately. I'm sort of in the middle with him, and it all depends on what type vehicle he's which will either work or not for me. I saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol recently too, and it was another great action movie. Probably if you were to line up his films, I've probably enjoyed a majority of them. I don't know if you've seen Vanilla Sky, but I thought the role he played in that suited him. He played a rich guy, handsome, playboy more or less that gets disfigured, and then his life spins out of control. It gets pretty edgy and surreal, and I enjoyed it for that.

Well, you might enjoy It Follows, but it didn't work for me that well. It's worth a watch I guess, but sometimes I long for the older days of horror when they didn't try to have an underlying "message" in them. Granted The Night of Living Dead, had a message, but I felt like the visceral horror was up front, and the message was more of an afterthought, etc.

Herrmann was pretty prolific and high profile in his career. The Day the Earth Stood Still, the Hitchcock and Harryhausen films, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. The next time I watch one of these films (or one I haven't seen) I'll need to tune my radar into the score. ;)


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