Friday, July 20, 2012


Tron...Tron, Tron, Tron. It's a movie that seems to have made a big impression on a lot of people I know, and yet, I didn't like it much. In fact, I fell asleep the first time I watched it.

And I wasn't the only one. I went to see it at the Alhambra Theater with my grandmother, Elsie. She used to visit every summer and stay with us for a few weeks, and we'd usually do stuff together during the day while my parents were at work. On this day, I convinced her to see it, and indeed, she fell asleep, too.

This wasn't an unusual occurrence for her; she tended to fall asleep for a little bit any time we'd go to or watch a movie. But it was odd for me at the time. (Now, I'm more like her, and usually have to watch DVDs in sessions.) I can see her being bored by it, but I'm a little surprised I was.

I mean, it's true I wasn't into computers as a kid, and wouldn't actually get one until I was well into my twenties, but I did have an Atari, and loved video arcades...still, the movie did nothing for me.

I watched it again a few years ago, in a double feature with its sequel, and found it was better than I remembered it being. And I even stayed awake through the whole thing this time!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cat People (3)

I got my chance to see Cat People for a third time when it played the York Theater on Monday, July 19th. What kills me is it was playing as a double feature with Don't Look Now, which, for whatever reason, I didn't also see. I've definitely seen that movie many times, but I can't say for sure whether I had seen it yet at that point in 1982. Either way, it's a good double bill!

Like I've said before, Cat People is either a movie you go with, or you don't. And if you don't, you'll probably just find the whole thing ridiculous. The following scene is the perfect example of that. If you get to the final line in this clip and start to laugh, this might not be the movie for you...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Long Good Friday and Body Heat ²

On Saturday, July 17th, I went to a double feature of Body Heat and The Long Good Friday at the York Theater. It was my second viewing of Body Heat, (read about my first viewing here), but the first of The Long Good Friday. And frankly, that one bored me a bit.

Which isn't that surprising. It's kind of a complicated movie to follow, and that isn't helped by some of the accents in it; I know I was wishing for subtitles more than once. Bob Hoskins is at his most Cockney in it, and I think this role as a gangster kind of sealed his fate of tough-guy roles, and was certainly the movie that got him his first big notices in the States.

I can't say much more about it, and really have no interest in re-watching it, but I can say this. I don't remember a lot about the movie, but I will always remember its ending. It's a fucking great ending. If you haven't seen the movie, obviously don't watch the following clip. If you have, watch it and relive its very simple awesomeness.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Christiane F.

Christiane F. is a miserable movie, as you can probably tell pretty well from the trailer above. But for whatever reason, I really wanted to see it, and thus dragged my reluctant dad along to a showing at the York Theater. He knew what we'd be in for, but I guess I either knew and didn't care, or didn't believe it would be torturous.

And I'm not calling it torturous in any good sense of the term, as in, it's torturous, but has to be because it's such a real and important subject. The thing with drug movies is, you only ever need to see one. They're all the same: Drugs are awesome, but then they're not. Someone dies, someone tries to get clean. Will they stay clean or relapse? Throw in some gruesome cold turkey scenes, and you've got yourself a drug movie. EVERY DRUG MOVIE.

This one was based on a book that was actually a true story, and I'd eventually read the book, too. It's pretty much as miserable as the movie is, without the added benefit of a musical appearance by David Bowie.

I will say this about it, though: Natja Brunckhorst, the young German actress who plays Christiane, and who was only 14 at the time, is pretty good. I mean, perhaps it's not that hard to play strung out and vomiting, but she really knocks it out of der park.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial

After it had been out for about a month, I finally got around to seeing E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Perhaps I was too busy seeing Poltergeist over and over again to make the effort? Actually, I think the main reason may have been an attempt to avoid lines. The movie was huge.

I'd end up seeing it twice, but I only have a memory of one time, and I'm not sure if it was the first or second time. I'd think it was the first, as that would make more of an impression, so I'm going to say the first time I saw E.T. was with my father at the Grand Lake in Oakland.

We didn't venture across the Bay often. If we did, it was usually to go to a show at the Greek, or to buy records in Berkeley. But I think we decided to make the trip this time because of a fondness for the Grand Lake, and we were lucky in that the movie was playing in the bigger main theater. Because, yes, as much as I love the Grand Lake, (and it's still in operation), I would love it so much more if it wasn't chopped up into multiple screens.

It might seem a little odd that of the two Spielberg movies that came out in 1982, I was more taken with Poltergeist than with E.T. And don't get me wrong, I really liked E.T. a LOT. But it didn't seem to get a hold of me as much as Poltergeist did. I think this probably had to do with my general preference for horror movies as opposed to science fiction.

It might also have been because E.T. was (and still is) an emotionally wrenching thing to sit through. I mean, we watch the poor creature suffer and die! And poor Elliot! I know I was basically sobbing in that first viewing.

And yeah, I also cried during the sappy ending, which really is Spielberg at his most mawkish. (That part's a little hard to sit through in repeat viewings, just because I get a headache from all the eye rolling I do.)

And I guess that is as good an explanation as any as to why I preferred Poltergeist to E.T. Poltergeist has its incredibly sappy parts, too; but it also has a guy tearing his own face off. It wins.

I have a bunch of clippings in my Book. For this first post, here's a review from the Examiner, and some capsule reviews from other local sources.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Blade Runner ²

My second viewing of Blade Runner also took place at the Coronet. I don't have any memory of it, so couldn't say what time of day it was, or who I went with. If I marked the date down correctly, it was a Monday, but since the movie is rated R, it seems unlikely I went alone. I think there might have been a few times when one of my parents would buy the ticket, but not actually go to the movie, but I'm not sure if this was one of those times.

Obviously, Blade Runner deserves more than one viewing. Even if you don't dig the story that much, or the characters, it's a visual feast, and you can't take it in with just one viewing. I mean, I can watch it over and over again just for Rachel's hair alone.

So. That scene. It's the best hair scene in the movie, of course. But as a love scene, it always just skeeved me out. Harrison Ford looks ghastly, he's basically assaulting her, and it's supposed to end in love? I don't buy it. I get that he's an asshole, but I think when it comes to his relationship with Rachel, it's supposed to be the one place he's caring and human, with full irony intended. But there's nothing romantic about that moment between them.

Back to the visuals. If you were to put this movie side by side with a movie full of CG cityscapes, I think Blade Runner would always win. Always. Director Ridley Scott has announced he is working on a sequel, and this worries me for a few reasons. One, because I just don't think it could ever look as awesome as the first one. And two, after seeing the mess that is Prometheus, I'm very worried about his abilities when it comes to revisiting past works...

But, maybe the reaction to Prometheus will have some affect on him, and on the kind of story he decides to tell. We've got at least two years to wait and see.

Only one more thing from my Genre Book: A newspaper ad from the Chronicle's Pink Section.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Peter Parkour: The Amazing Spider-Man

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

I'm not even going to pose the question, "Do we really need a reboot of Spider-Man already?" because, the answer seems to be pretty obvious. Of course we don't! Sam Raimi's Spider-Man was only ten years ago, and the third sequel only five. But if we're gonna ask that question we might as well just ask "Do we really need any more superhero or comic book movies at all?" to which I would respond, "No, no, we don't," because I'm tired, so very, very tired, of comic book movies at this point; I could really use a break.

But all that is moot. The world doesn't feel the same, comic books movies are here to stay, and it's likely reboots like this will become more common, if the opening box office has anything to say about it. And people who don't like them don't have to see them. (Unless, like me, you kind of have to.)

For the record, I was a comic book reader growing up, but I was more of a DC gal. Superman, Wonder Woman, and most of all Swamp Thing (where's THAT reboot?), were my books of choice. All I really know about Spider-Man is from what I heard in the lyrics to the animated show, and what I saw in Sam Raimi's films, (which, aside from the third one, I enjoyed).

At the center, of course, is high school dweeb Peter Parker, played by the 28-year-old Brit, Andrew Garfield. Garfield is just as believable as a teenager as Tobey Maguire was, which is to say, kiiiiind of.

This is an origin story movie, so we start with the young Peter being dropped into the laps of Uncle Ben, (Martin Sheen and his teeth), and Aunt May, (Sally Field and her grey hair), by his parents, played by Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz, two actors way too talented for nothing but cameo roles, (the better to cast a sequel with!).

Once Peter gets to high school, he's a camera-wielding semi-dork, with his share of bullies, and an eye for a blonde named Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, about as believable as a teenager).

Gwen is more than a pretty blonde, though, and is, coincidentally, also the head intern at Oscorp, a giant genetics company headed up by the one-armed Dr. Curt Connors, (Rhys Ifans), a man who also--coincidence number two--used to work with Peter's father, Richard.

A visit to this super lab is what leads to the inevitable spider bite, and soon Peter Parker becomes Peter Parkour, leaping over hand railings, fire escapes, and bad guys in a single spurt of spider web. (Said spider webbing isn't a somewhat creepy biological excretion this time around. Instead, Peter fashions his techie wrist shooters himself. Just don't try to understand how he does it.)

Peter uses his super spidey brain to help out Dr. Connors with his miracle serum, only to have the once sane doctor go quite mad once he ingests some of it himself. The stuff doesn't just turn him into a lizard; it turns him into a pissed off lizard.

I remember just enough about Raimi's first movie, and its origin story, to recognize the differences, and be bored by the similarities, and--spoiler alert!--Uncle Ben suffers a similar fate in both. It's this fate that compels Peter to done some spandex, (his online search for a suit is one of the movies surprisingly few comedic moments), and take to the streets, vigilante style, which provides the perfect prep for his eventual showdown with the Lizard.

The movie is long, and as is the case with origin stories, there's a lot of setting up to be done. It's well over an hour before Spider-Man gets into it with the Lizard. A lot of that time includes montages of Peter practicing his moves, fighting with petty criminals, and flying through the air. I saw the movie in IMAX and 3D, and I think both are ultimately unnecessary. The only thing the giant screen did for me was make me notice how pink Andrew Garfield's lips were, and how it really looked like he was wearing the same color lipstick as Sally Field.

I think Spider-Man's aerial acrobatics would probably look just as good in your standard movie theater. I did like how director Marc Webb (Webb!) used several moments of POV camera work, so that it feels like you are the one swinging above the streets of New York.

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have a definite chemistry with each other, and I found Garfield's aww-shucks charm a lot more appealing than Tobey Maguire's. I also appreciated that even after gaining his spider powers, Peter remains kind of a skinny, wiry guy. He doesn't suddenly grow super abs.

Emma Stone proves once again that she can do no wrong. She's just attractive enough that you can also completely buy her as also being a bit of a nerd. And she continues to prove she's got wicked comedic timing. Some of the film's best moments are quiet, flirty ones between Gwen and Peter.

And really, it's the success of the two leads that is the make it or break it of this movie. Cast a dud of a Spider-Man, and you'd probably end up with the equivalent of 2006's failed Superman Returns. Garfield's Peter Parker has the perfect amount of geeky cockiness, complete with wisecracking commentary when he's fighting the bad guy; those bits are straight up comic book, and fun. (It's just too bad there isn't a bit more levity in the film.)

And I hope Emma Stone's Gwen comes back in the inevitable sequel, as the series could use the continued presence of a strong, smart, and funny female partner for Parker. And not to give anything away, (really), but in the end, it's really Gwen who's responsible for saving the world...And I bet she'd look fantastic in spandex.