Our house has two stories but only one HVAC unit. This means that the upstairs (where my bedroom is) always remains about ten degrees warmer than downstairs. This isn't so bad in the winter when you want it to be warm, but as summer creeps in, it gets hotter and hotter upstairs. So much so, that the afternoons are usually unbearable. Since the whole lockdown thing started, I've been doing most of my movie-watching upstairs. Our living room is usually full of hustle and bustle between my wife doing various things and my daughter running around like a lunatic. Upstairs is peaceful by comparison. It also lets me lay down on my bed (which is way more comfortable than my couch) and I really like laying down after a long day. Or on a Saturday. I like laying down anytime I can if we're being honest.
But the heat is starting to get to me. Since we can't go anywhere, my Saturday usually consists of me watching anywhere from two to four movies. That was my plan for today, but somewhere after lunch, I had to head downstairs for a while. If I turn the AC way down, I can usually make it bearable but that skyrockets the electric bill. Anyway, this is my life. An ever-changing lifestyle in order to watch as many movies as I can. I managed to watch a bunch this week and still stay comfortable. Here are five cool ones that I enjoyed.
I was slightly too young to have seen the classic John Hughes' teen comedies in the 1980s, but I have very fond memories of discovering them on VHS tape in the early 1990s. Like so many other teenagers of the era, those films spoke to me. The teens in those films spoke like I spoke, thought like I thought, or at least a rough facsimile thereof. They definitely didn't act like the teenagers in the slashers and sex comedies that were coming out at the same time.
There has been something of a reconsideration of his films over the last few years. Molly Ringwald even wrote a very thoughtful essay on what they mean to her all these years later, and what it means that she starred in several of those films. Sixteen Candles is the first film John Hughes ever directed (he had written a few before this). It is a rather problematic film with a racist caricature for a character and an incident that very likely encourages date rape. But it is still very funny and warm in that way only John Hughes films could be. And it is anchored by a wonderful performance from Molly Ringwald. Arrow Video has just put out a really nice release of the film (and it says something about the times that it is Arrow Video, a company known for releasing b-movies and straight-to-video horror film rather than something like the Criterion Collection, which put out The Breakfast Club). You can read my full review here.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics has put out another set of film noirs. The next two cool films I'll be talking about were part of that set. You can read my full review here.
Abandoned stars Gale Storm as a woman who has left her small town to search the big city for her missing sister. While she's talking to the police about it (and having zero luck getting them interested), journalist Mark Sitko (Dennis O'Keefe) overhears her and decides to insert himself into it. He might get a good story out of it, and she's young and attractive so maybe he'll get something else out of it too.
They do some good sleuthing, get some info out of a shady private eye (played marvelously by Raymond Burr), and eventually uncover an illegal adoption ring. The leads are good and it has a terrific noir look to it.
The Lady Gambles
This noir stars Barbara Stanwyck as an intelligent, middle-class woman who becomes addicted to gambling and loses nearly everything she has. Robert Preston plays her husband who takes her to Las Vegas so he can do a story on the Hoover Dam. While holed up in her hotel, she decides to take some photos of the gambling. The casino boss (Stephen McNally) catches her but instead of breaking her arms, he gives her some fake chips. They aren't worth anything but they allow her to play the slots for fun.
One thing turns to another and suddenly she's gambling real money. She loses her husband, her social standing, and everything. But still, she gambles. There are hints at prostitution and other ways in which she's fallen, but being made in 1949 the movie can only hint at her real degradation. This and the script's rather annoying turns at preaching at us instead of telling a story make it less than top notch. But what's good (the acting, the cinematography) is really good.
Nico Mastorakis started his career as a journalist, but after a disastrous interview with some student protestors, he turned to making low budget b-movies. I've now seen two of his films, The Zero Boys (which I reviewed here) and The Wind. Both films feature some technical filmmaking better than most b-movies are able to deliver, with some fine cinematography, good direction, and scores by a then up-and-coming composer named Hans Zimmer. The Zero Boys is a mish-mash of action and horror tropes that did not work for me at all, but I found The Wind to be quite enjoyable.
The Wind stars Meg Foster as a writer of pulp novels who decides to spend a few weeks on the Greek island of Monemvasia in order to write her next novel. Being the offseason, the island is almost completely deserted. After a brief walk-through of her new digs, the owner of the house takes off leaving only his caretaker (played with manic glee by Wings Hauser) for company.
Of course, the caretaker winds up being a complete psycho and most of the movie is a cat and mouse game with him chasing her through the large house while the titular winds howl menacingly. There are some pretty big leaps in logic and the characters do some really stupid things, but it features some really fine cinematography and there are enough thrills to keep things moving. It is well worth watching for fans of the genre.
Disney+ Marvel Shows
Disney+ just dropped a teaser for three of their upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe based television shows (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and Loki). Teasing three shows in thirty seconds doesn't give us a lot of information about any of them. I've intentionally not been reading the news releases for any of them so other than this I'm definitely without a clue. The most interesting one to me is WandaVision which appears to be Wanda daydreaming (or perhaps hallucinating) about what her life with Vision might have been like were they not superpowered and Vision had not died during the events of Infinity War.
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is one of my favorite movies from my childhood. It is such dumb, glorious fun (and you can read my recent review of the Shout! Factory steelbook here). They've been teasing the third sequel for a while now and the trailer finally dropped this week. It looks...excellent. It seems Bill & Ted have never quite written the song that was supposed to unite the world creating the paradise Rufus showed them in the first film. So they decide to use the phone booth to travel to the future where they have already written that song and steal it. There really isn't much shown in this teaser, but it is fun to see both Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter reprising their roles (though Keanu seems a bit stiff, even for him). Who knows if this will be any good, but I for one am excited to find out.