Monday, October 03, 2016

Such is Life, and Middling Movies

This past week I got picked up for jury duty.  Thank goodness I wasn't picked, but I still had to show up at the courthouse at 8:30am.  It was packed.  I tried parking in the regular juror lot, but it was already filled, so I drove down to another lot that I knew was used for a juror parking and thankfully found a space.  I had to hoof it over to the court house, and once I got to the building noticed a guy at the rear of the building giving a fire and brimstone speech or sermon?  I'm not sure what it was exactly.  I assumed his intent was to perhaps help some lost souls find Jesus or God, but man, I thought what a crazy acting dude.  Quite honestly I didn't have time to stop and listen to him, not that I would have, but just sort of gave him space and hurried on as I was running a bit late.  I don't think it would have mattered to him much as he did not seem to slow down his delivery or insistence.   Whatever he was discussing in the morning air was set at a high-fevered pitch, and seemingly with great urgency and bluster, and I don't know, he seemed a bit crazy to me.  I had to wonder if that ever occurred to him, or if he just didn't care due to his mission.  This screwball town.

Once inside the court house it was still packed.  I found a seat, and they ended up picking I think 60 people to screen for one trial and 90 for the next one.  I thankfully was not picked.  I should have bought a lottery ticket once we were let go.  I chatted a bit with a guy though while going thru the initial screening process off and on.  He had bad breath, which made it difficult at times.  But I found that if I secretively regulated my breathing, sort of holding my breath as he spoke, and then breathing in, it wasn't too bad.  He'd grown up in the Austin area, and had traveled around Texas, and talked about towns like Houston and Crockett and traffic.  He was a friendly sort otherwise, and I read from some of a book I had brought along for the occasion.   At any rate, neither I nor the guy I was talking to was picked, so we scurried on our way.  Boy, was I ever glad.

Finally the super hot Texas weather has broken into something a bit more tolerable.  I guess the bugs have sensed this as well, as I've had more problems with them of late.  So I probably should spot poison around the house, as I have guest arriving to spend the night on Oct. 6.  A couple I know from Austin is driving through town on their way to some family get together.  My friend asked if they could stop over, and I said sure, I'd love to have some company.   My friend and I used to live together when we were going to college in Lubbock at Texas Tech University back in the Stone Ages.  I graduated, and he moved down to Austin to finish up his college, but we've always kept in touch.  We were both big music fans, which seems to be one of our common denominators, but we both share similar outlooks on the world, politics, movies, and such.  I think those touchstones and common denominators create friendships.  Anyway this week I'll be doing some house cleaning and such. 

Movie-wise, I've seen various things.  Nothing great or classic, but fun to watch nonetheless.
Crazy People starred Dudley Moore and Darrell Hanna, both pretty good actors.  I've enjoyed movies by them both, however, this movie didn't offer much.  It was lightweight and slightly funny, if a bit outrageous plot-wise and also drug in a few spots.  Dudley Moore's character is thought to be overworked and strained from his ad agency job, and his recent tendency of coming up with "totally honest" ads, make his mental health suspect to his boss.  Ads that sound like this:  "Smoking, sure it causes cancer, but man, the flavor."   At any rate, he gets blackmailed into getting some rest (and an evaluation) in  a mental hospital, where he meets Darrell Hanna's character, romance and attraction ensues.  He soon meets other people in the institution, and oddly enough the ads he had previously created work, so he recruits the residents of the hospital to help him create more ads.  It's a pretty fluffy movie, but semi-enjoyable. 
I caught Creature, also known as The Titan Find, off my Roku device one night.  It probably was the weekend, and I tend to watch more genre films then.  (Who am I kidding? That's my mainstay.)  This movie was a total ripoff of Alien.  You can tell that from the very beginning when the soundtrack starts, then the viewer gets whisked off to a mining-type, archeological dig off on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn.  Whoa, just whoa.  Two explorers are investigating some oddly sealed, alien-like containers, looks like some kinda creature in there.  I think you know already, like I did, where this one might go, particularly if you've already seen the Alien movies (and who hasn't?).  A creature gets out, things run amuck, people scream, get killed, more whoas, and credits end.  That aside though, it's watchable, particularly if you are a SF nerd like me.  One of the things that caught my attention was the older school use of special effects with the space ships, and for their modest budget staging alien landscapes and scenes, and that sort of thing.  If you don't care for any of that, I'd say, skip it.
Taeter City, I'm not making this up, honest.  That was the title of this movie.  That in combination of the crazy movie poster had me intrigued.  Why?  A sucker is born everyday, I guess.  But you know what?  For what it was, which is a very low budget SF horror movie, it wasn't a total waste of time.   As I've already said, I'm a SF geek and throw in some horror with it, and I'm game.  I knew nothing about this movie beforehand, and that might be the best way to watch it.  It's shot rather experimentally the way George Lucas did with THX-1138, and it has similar tropes.  It takes place in a post apocalypse, big brother society ruled over by a dictatorship or should it say, a dictaetership, sorry, couldn't help myself.   People who go against the system and act out, or dissidents, or people that go crazy are killed off by a Judge Dredd-like police force, and then they are ground up into tainted hamburger meat for the society to eat, which then causes more mental illness in the overcrowded population.  The cops use this odd Zeed electronic system similar to the way the film, Minority Report warned the cops about potential criminal activity that might occur. That causes more perps to get hunted down, and killed, which makes for more hamburgers.  Such is the life cycle in the future.  It's one of those oddball movies, where someone comes up with the plot, and just goes with it, and if it flies off the rails, so be it.  Again, this isn't going to be to everyone's taste.  I was in the mood for something different and it sure filled that bill.  What's odd, is I never could get my TV's audio quality to sound right when watching this movie.  It always sounded distorted a bit, a bit warbled and dirty. I think maybe it's made that way or with that intent--just giving an impression or this warped society.  They probably made it that way to cover some of the more obvious flaws and imperfections.   If you are in the mood for something that's probably brain damaging and different, well seek no further.
You might surmise from that Island of Terror poster that the critters in this British film prefers the crunchy recipe, and you'd be right in that they like eating our bones.  It's an older British SF horror film, and starred Peter Cushing who is always fun to watch on screen.  The film had the flavor of some of those Brit Hammer films, which is fun too.  Science runs amuck and created these sort of parasite type critters.  They have a hard shell like a turtle with tentacles.  They reproduce or divide like an amoeba rather rapidly, which makes it even more a threat.  There's some romance, and then the towns folks at the end get their act together and finally hunt down these beast.  It was a pleasant enough creature feature for me. 
Well, pardner, with them thar two stars, James Stewart and Audie Murphy, starring in a big timey Oater, it's just gotta be good, right?   Well, not exactly.  I was raised partly on westerns and partly on SF fare like the Twilight Zone.  The Night Passage isn't a total failure though as it was shot (at least it looked like) in Colorado, which is beautiful.  The thing is the movie is fairly pedestrian, or nothing special.  I think the flaw for me wasn't so much the two main stars, but it was the performance by the one main bad guy played by Dan Duryea as Whitey Harbin.  He played it too over the top for me.  It seemed all of his lines were spoken, LOUD, YEAH, CAUSE THAT'S THE WAY THE TOUGH GUYS SPOKE BACK THEN, CAUSE THEY WERE MEAN, AND ROWDY, AND THEY JUST MIGHT DRAW ON YA AND SHOOT YOU DEAD.  SO DON'T TRY ANYTHING, IFFIN YOU KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR YA.  It became a bit comical and cliched by the time the movie was drawing to the end.  It's not that it's a bad movie, in fact I enjoyed it for the most part, but I could name off some other westerns that are far better.  It also had a pretty good shoot out toward the ending, so there's that.  Otherwise, it was a bit of a middling western, but enjoyable.


At 5:55 PM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

Ah the joys of jury duty. I’ve been called several times and have been on three juries in civil cases – none lasting more than 2 days fortunately. The biggest difference I’ve noted over the years is security. The Morris County Courthouse has six entrances from the street on four sides; in the 1970s and 80s all of them were open and unguarded 7 to 5. Nowadays only the front and back door are unlocked and inside is uniformed security, metal detectors, and sign-in/sign-out sheets.

I remember seeing Crazy People in the theater. I began to watch a broadcast version several years later, but didn’t stick with it: the ads had been so toned down for broadcast as to take away any edge. I’ve seen all of the others but Taeter City: cheesy but fun if one is in the right mood. The trouble with real heroes such as Audie Murphy is that they seldom portray heroes very well. They don’t fit the fictional archetypes. Oh well: it’s far better to be a fine man and a bad actor than the other way around.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

I've served to on a couple of civil cases that were finished in one day involving injuries on the job or some such. I was always happy to be released. One involved a criminal juvenile case where the young man was involved with a bunch of his peers and ran over someone. That took longer, was more involved, and I was really glad when that ended. Like a lot of life, it's never how you assumed or imagined it might be.

Yeah, with Crazy People the ads are the best part, almost the rest of it is fluff. It's harmless and lightweight, though in the end, a middling picture. Moore pretty much carries it on his likeability. While watching it I was reminded of the Nicholson film, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, which is a much better film, though different.

With Audie Murphy, I think he fits better in his war movie roles. He's fine when playing cowboys, and he was fine in Night Passage, but some of the other aspects of the film drag it down. Still if you're a western fan, it's worth a watch. I think if you wanted badly to see Taeter City you can probably find it to watch online somewhere. It's one of those crazy films that sort of made to shock or blow your mind, and pretty much does that though I don't think it will win any awards.


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