Thursday, May 26, 2016

The latest round of movies back on FXM Retro

By the time you read this post, you'll likely have missed this morning's airing of Young Jesse James on FXM Retro. But fear not: it's going to be coming up again tomorrow morning at 3:30 AM. It's one of those movies that Fox made around the time they were also making the Elizabeth Taylor version of Cleopatra. The Taylor movie was a huge budget suck for a bunch of reasons, and one of the result is that a lot of other Fox movies from the time period look as though they're done on shoestring budgets. (I just watched Battle at Bloody Beach, for example, and there's another film with the same problem.) That having been said, the story in Young Jesse James isn't that bad.

Later on, you'll have a chance to catch Way... Way Out, tomorrow at 1:10 PM and Saturday at 11:10 AM. As I said back then, there's Jerry Lewis, but there's also 60s style, or at least the 60s impression of what the future would be like. That's just as far out as the lunar settings.

In and among those, there's going to be Sea Wife (mid-morning Friday) and These Thousand Hills (I think following this morning's airing of Young Jesse James). My set-top box was acting up, only showing listings for the next 24 hours or so, as though either the power went out for a bit -- it didn't since I didn't have to reset all the clocks in the house -- or something interrupted the satellite signal briefly. So you'll have to check the local listings for those two.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Burt Kwouk, 1930-2016

British character actor Burt Kwouk has died at the age of 85. Kwouk is probably best remembered for playing Cato Fong in several of the Pink Panther movies. He also had a small part as Ling in Goldfinger.

One movie Kwouk was in that recently showed up on the FXM schedule again is Satan Never Sleeps. I thought it was on this week's schedule, but apparently it must have been earlier this week. The satellite box guide says the next airing won't be until June 6, or a week from this coming Monday. (Now if FXM can bring back The Chairman, in which Kwouk also appears.)

Monday having been mentioned, that's Memorial Day, and TCM is showing 55 Days at Peking, to which Kwouk apparently lends his voice, at least according to IMDb. That'll be on at 11:30 AM on the 30th.

TCM has a new host

Apparently TCM put out a press release yesterday that they're going to be bringing in a new full-time host. Tiffany Vazquez, who won one of the TCM fan contests for the 20th anniversary of the channel in 2014 and who then got to present a TCM Spotlight last December. Starting in June, she's going to be presenting the Saturday afternoon lineup on a permanent basis.

This, of course, frees up some time for Ben Mankiewicz, who has been taking over more of the prime time hosting duties as Robert Osborne has been increasingly absent. Sooner or later, most likely sooner, Robert Osborne is going to retire permanently, at which point one presumes Mankiewicz is going to take over all of the prime time duties. Well, all of them except for when somebody's doing the Spotlight all by themselves. That wasn't this month which had Ben interviewing Roger Corman, but there are going to be months in the future that do have a lone Spotlight presenter.

I don't particularly remember Tiffany from the December spotlight; in fact, I don't recall actually watching any of the movies in the spotlight that month. (Well, I'd seen a bunch of them already; I just didn't bother to watch the rest of them.) So I can't comment on how she may be as a presenter, which I know isn't as easy as it looks. I read the news on my college's radio station, and just reading from a script like that with no cameras around, and sounding right at the same time, is harder than you'd think. For what it's worth, some of the regulars at the TCM boards seem to be up in arms.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

North Dallas Forty

Over the weekend, I finally got around to watching North Dallas Forty which I DVRed months ago. It's available on DVD, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length blog post on it.

The movie starts off with a scene I found reminiscent of Fat City: Phillip Elliott (Nick Nolte) gets out of bed clad in just his undies to go about his morning routine. Unlike Stacy Keach, however, Phillip's routine is rather more painful, and punctuated by memories of a football game. That's because Phillip Elliott is a wide receiver for the North Dallas Bulls, a professional football team. Phillip apparently both had a big drop and caught the winning touchdown pass in the last game, and that's what he's remembering. Eventually, some of his friends from the team come to pick him up to spend time together on their off day.

Phillip is rather blasé about the whole thing. His quarterback, Seth Maxwell (Mac Davis, whom I'd always thought of as a singer/songwriter, not an actor) is driving Phillip in a car, with linemen Jo Bob (Bo Svensson) and O.W. (John Matuszak, who really was a pro football player earlier in his life) drunk on the hood shooting at cattle. You can see why a non football player would be uncomfortable with the situation, but for a pro player? Well, that's because Phillip is getting on in years as far as football players go. He's not ready to give up the game since that's the only thing he knows, but he does seem to have a sense that his time will be coming.

That night, there's a wild party at one of the player's houses, which is where Phillip meets Charlotte (Dayle Haddon). She's just as blasé and ill at ease with the whole party as Phillip. But you wonder why she even came to the party. Phillip having to show up to his teammate's party is understandable; Charlotte claims she doesn't even like football. You get the sense, however, that the two are bound to wind up together, even though Charlotte leaves the party alone. Sure enough, Phillip leaves the party early and shows up at Charlotte's place, promptly falling asleep on the couch.

Meanwhile, there's a game to prepare for. Phillip's general manager Strothers (I think he's the general manager; he might be the head coach although I don't think he's ever referred to that way, unlike Coach Johnson, played by Charles Durning) tella Phillip that he's not playing as part of a team, and that he has to be more mature. He certainly seems more mature than the rest of the players, who like to carouse in the locker room and at film sessions. But there's also the physical therapy, which is where we can understand why Phillip is getting uncomfortable about the game. The trainers strongly encourage the players to take all sorts of pills and injections. Some players not only do so willy-nilly but are willing to raid the trainer's medicine cabinet for more pills; other players want to treat their body like a temple. All of this is in preparation for the big game in Chicago on Monday night, which is for the conference championship apparently. That game takes up the most of the last third of the movie.

North Dallas Forty is based on a book written by former professional football player Peter Gent; supposedly it's a pretty accurate look at what the NFL was like back in the early 70s. I haven't read the book and so can't comment on it, but I found that this movie version falls flat in spots. First, I found some of the characters intensely unappealing, particularly Joe Bob. Somebody injure him and get him on IR so we can be done with him already. He's a jerk, and not very funny. I also found a lot of continuity issues, for lack of a better description. The film may not actually have any continuity problems, but there's a lot that the screenplay doesn't present so well. It wasn't until near the very end of the movie that I realized the action had all taken place over just one week. There's also the problem with the "conference championship" game, as the movie implies that there will be another game next week for North Dallas regardless of the outcome. I also mentioned the issue with Strothers' position on the team.

Allthat having been said, I think Nolte gives a pretty good performance, and North Dallas Forty is certainly worth one viewing. It's also a movie I would definitely include if TCM were ever going to do one of its monthly spotlights on football. It's just not one I'm particularly interested in watching for a second time.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Peabody Awards

Wrong PeabodyTCM's prime time lineup tonight honors movies that won the Peabody Award, an award that recognizes meritorious public service by the media. I always thought it was an award for TV, but apparently they have awarded some movies too. The one of the movies that I've seen on tonight's schedule is Hoop Dreams at 10:00 PM, although it's probably been a good 15 years since I've watched the movie.

For those who haven't seen it, it's a documentary looking at William Gates and Arthur Agee. These two young men are basketball players from the Chicago housing projects, both of whom have incredible talent. Enough talent, in fact, that the people who can open doors for them by ultimately getting them a college scholarship are interested, although they of course are just as much interested in how much revenue adolescent basketball players can make for them. Apparently not only is college basketball big business, so is high school basketball in some areas. It's not an easy ride for the two men or their families, who go through all sorts of trials and tribulations on their way to... well, I won't say exactly where the journey ends up. The two documentarians spent years with the basketball players, eventually editing all of the material down to a three-hour story that never feels like it's three hours long, that's how gripping it is.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Apologies for another round of poor posting

I've decided finally to enter the 21st century and get a modern computer, but of course, setting it up is a dickens. Or, more appropriately, getting all of my data from the old computer to the new is a big part of the dickens; Windows 10 actually went surprisingly well. But then I also want a dual-boot system and trying to get Linux and Windows 10 to play well with each other is the other dickens.

I should probably take this opportunity to do another list post on vintage computers, with one of the earlist I can think of offhand being the one in Desk Set, which was recycled for What a Way to Go!. I think I made a point to mention the vintage computers in Jumping Jack Flash when I blogged on that several months ago. Ah those green-only screens!

I have watched a couple of movies off the DVR recently, but I'd have to check which ones are available on DVD before doing a full-length post on any of them.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Alan Young, 1919-2016

Alan Young, the actor who is probably best known for playing the businessman who owned talking horse Mr. Ed, died on Thursday at the age of 96.

British-born Young started his movie career at Fox, in the late 40s, but for the most part spent more time on the small screen than the big screen. He was the title character in Androcles and the Lion in the early 50s, and played opposite Rod Taylor in The Time Machine. Later in his career, he gained new fame for playing Scrooge McDuck in Mickey's Christmas Carol, a half-hour version of the classic Dickens story.

Friday, May 20, 2016

One I think I've seen, and one I know I haven't

Robert Ryan's turn as TCM Star of the Month continues tonight with a movie that sounds familiar: The Outfit, at 10:00 PM. A different Robert -- Duvall -- plays a small-time criminal who robbed a bank, only for that bank to have been a front for the Mob, who killed his brother in return. Duvall wants revenge, and Robert Ryan plays Mailer, the head of the outfit responsible for the brother's killing. A year or two back I watched a movie that I think was from the very end of Ryan's career, and I know it's not one of the others, so I think this is the one. But from the plot synopsis, I don't really remember the Joe Don Baker character.

Tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM, TCM is showing the 1965 British movie Ten Little Indians. This is one that I know I haven't seen, because I have to admit to not knowing that this particular Agatha Christie story had been done in the 1960s. (This one doesn't have either Miss Marple, played by Margaret Rutherford in four films in the early 1960s, or Hercule Poirot.) I do, however, know the story, since I've seen and blogged about the 1945 movie, which carries the other title for the story, And Then There Were None.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Shorts for May 19-20, 2016

TCM has a short that I think is new to me not only in the sense that I haven't seen it before, but in the sense that I don't think I've even heard of it. Sure, I haven't seen all the Traveltalks shorts or the Riple's Believe It or Not shorts, but if one of those shows up on the TCM schedule, it's usually pretty obvious what sort of short is on the schedule. But today a little after 5:30 PM, or just after Crisis (3:45 PM, 96 min), TCM is showing Spotlight No. 3. This one, produced in Canada by a company called "Associated Screen Studios" per the IMDb credits, apparently has four vignettes about interesting things in Canada. I'd never heard of the studio, and IMDb doesn't list any other production company distributing the short, but then by this time the US studios no longer ran the theater chains, too.

Tomorrow morning at about 10:59 AM, there's another chance to catch Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow. This one showed up a couple of weeks ago, and I also mentioned it a year and a half ago when I did a post on some of the RKO-Pathé shorts of the 1950s showing up on TCM. I find all of the RKO-Pathé shorts to be worth at least one watch, just for the historical value even if they turn out to be boring.

In between, there are several of the promo/featurette type shorts. The one that I've mentioned before is The Bounty Sails Again!, which you can catch tomorrow at 8:35 AM. There's also a short on Ice Station Zebra following Wild in the Streets a little after 3:00 AM, and one on Oliver! following Three in the Attic, around 4:50 AM.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Several upcoming movies I've blogged about before

I was looking at doing a post on a movie I recently watched, but it seems the movie in question is out of print on DVD. So instead, in looking through the TCM schedule, I find quite a few movies I blogged about a long time in the past.

The morning and afternoon schedule deals with plastic surgery. I wrote a whole post on the idea one time when Dark Passage showed up in the past. That film is coming up at noon today. I'm not a huge fan of the Bogart-Bacall pairing, but the movie does more or less work once we actually get to see Bogart's face.

His Kind of Woman is a lot of fun, especially for the performance of Vincent Price as a ham actor. He has so much fun in what is supposed to be a serious Robert Mitchum movie. That one you can see at 4:00 PM.

The day of plastic surgery movies concludes at 6:15 PM with Eyes Without a Face, a French horror movie about plastic surgery used for entirely the wrong reasons, and on people who aren't exactly consenting adults. If you haven't seen this one, I highly recommend it.

Tomorrow morning and afternoon has a bunch of Cary Grant movies, some of which aren't as well known. Among the lesser-known movies are The Howards of Virginia at 7:45 AM, and the dreadful Once Upon a Time at 2:00 PM.

Over on FXM Retro, they're bringing back Of Love and Desire, which will be on tomorrow at 1:45 PM.