Pumping Iron

yesterdocs

Pumping Iron.  White Mountain Films 1977.
Pumping Iron. White Mountain Films 1977.

Before watching the movie:

Way back in the beginning of this blog, when I was still feeling out what it was and what it covered, I reviewed one documentary. And in the years since, I have had one lonely post in the Documentary category (and one in Mockumentary, which I made a subcategory, but that’s another story).  I like documentaries. I’m just never in the mood to watch them, and I swiftly came to the idea that this blog should only cover scripted films. Maybe I’m better equipped to discuss scripted cinema, maybe it comes more easily. But lately documentaries have become a bigger part of my life, and I’ve been piling up docs in my to be watched list. I decided it was time to do something about it. So this month, not only am I reviewing four documentaries on this blog, I’m also trying to watch a total of at least 20 in the entire month, which I’m keeping track of on Tumblr.

I should probably discuss a little bit about this particular movie, even though I’ve gone on about the theme of the month for one whole Schwarzenegger. I get the sense it probably would have been forgotten if it hadn’t been the screen debut of a model about to become an actor known for being buff and not saying much. I don’t think I knew before now that it also profiles Lou Ferrigno, who also transitioned into acting in roles on his physique. It sounds like Arnold is more of the bad boy superstar of the movie, while Ferrigno has a more, perhaps sympathetic portrayal. They might be positioned as rivals in the narrative, or they might just be competitors in the same circuit, but the former seems more likely unless I’m missing an option for how the narrative may be constructed.

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Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke

Cheech and Chong's Up In Smoke. Paramount Pictures 1978.
Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke. Paramount Pictures 1978.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t entirely get stoner comedy. No doubt, that’s because it’s the only real contact I have with stoner culture and you’re meant to consume stoner entertainment while stoned, so pretty much anything would be funny. But then there’s an element of making fun of how dulled the cognitive reflexes are while under the influence that would probably be funnier sober, so I guess it’s more about having fun with the lifestyle.

I’m fond of Cheech Marin’s comedy work, though I came in from a very different angle than most people (children’s edutainment). Tommy Chong I’ve really only encountered through Cheech & Chong, apparently because he had a rough time keeping his career afloat after Cheech split off to pursue acting. In most of their work together that I can remember, he seems like, if not the straight man (because high people are funny), the one who was there so Cheech had someone to play off of.

So… road movie about being high. I want to like it, but I can’t come up with much reason to express why. Continue reading

Bugsy Malone

Bugsy Malone. Paramount Pictures 1976.
Bugsy Malone. Goodtimes Enterprises 1976.

Before watching the movie:

I stumbled across this maybe decades ago, I believe referenced in an educational book about movie making, which noted that there was a movie that cast all child actors in grown-up roles, requiring all of the sets and props to be custom-built at a child scale. That obviously stuck in my mind, but I never followed up on it. Recently I watched a movie that made an offhand reference to this movie, finally looked it up, and here it is.

I had no idea before I looked it up that it was a musical. This sounds fantastic. A G-rated gangster movie musical with a completely child cast, starring Jodie Foster and Scott Baio. I mean, it could go horribly wrong, but what reputation I’ve been able to glean about it suggests not.

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Alien

Alien. 20th Century Fox 1979.
Alien. 20th Century Fox 1979.

Before watching the movie:

This is definitely not part of the Movie Monster Month series. Because it’s a new month, of course.

I have the impression that this movie basically invented Sci-Fi-Action-Horror as a subgenre, or at least is why it’s so predominant. I don’t dislike that combination, but I do mind that it seems to have choked out the alternatives, at least through the 80s and 90s.

But anyway, this is very ingrained in culture, so the scariest part is that I haven’t seen it yet. Ripley is up there with Sarah Connor (in Terminator 2) for awesome female heroes, and John Hurt’s most famous role is as the guy who explodes. There’s a walking backhoe fight. (That’s Alien 2 I think) These are things it’s impossible not to know.

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King Kong

King Kong. Dino De Laurentiis Company 1976.
King Kong. Dino De Laurentiis Company 1976.

Before watching the movie:

Yes, this is a remake. The second remake, if an Indian version made in the 60s that stands little chance of appearing here counts. And no, I haven’t seen the original yet. I haven’t seen any version before now. This is mostly a matter of what was available, and while the newest version is old enough to be considered, I’m more attracted to this one. Just by its era, I expect it to be more accessible than the original, while still feeling more classic than current. Then on top of that, it has a particularly notable cast. Fay Wray was at the top of her career in 33’s King Kong, but she’s popularly remembered for little else now. Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Jessica Lange, and Rene Auberjonois are all still fairly well known today, and I’m looking forward to their performances.

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The Amazing Captain Nemo

The Return of Captain Nemo. Warner Bros. 1978.
The Return of Captain Nemo. Warner Bros. 1978.

Before watching the movie:

I try to stick to movies with a theatrical release, but I’m not sure this had one, as it was written as a three-part television pilot. I do know that it brings Captain Nemo to the modern era, and it stars Jose Ferrer as Nemo and Burgess Meredith as the bad guy, and the contrast between great cast and silly concept caught my curiosity and attention, and I could not leave it on the shelf.

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Aces High

Aces High.  Fisz Productions/Productions Roitfeld 1976.
Aces High. Fisz Productions/Productions Roitfeld 1976.

Before watching the movie:

World War I doesn’t get nearly as much attention as any other major war of the 20th century (that registers in American history education). It’s sometimes treated like a forgotten prequel to everyone’s favorite war with Nazis and atomic detonations. While it’s a mentality I’m not at all immune to, it’s worth remembering as the horrific tragedy of old-fashioned warfare at an industrialized pace. There are few symbols more powerful to me than the Douaumont Ossuary, a memorial built to house the remains of over 130,000 young men killed in a single (massive) battle, and that number is just the ones that couldn’t be identified. Small wonder it was thought at the time that this war would make any future wars unthinkable. As centennial anniversaries of milestones in the war are remembered currently, it might be gaining back some respect.

I went into all of that because this movie is positioned as a drama concerning the toll aerial warfare took on RAF pilots, and so hopefully the above paragraph is relevant, even if it was more concerned with terrestrial battles than planes. The big names by today’s standards are Malcolm McDowell and Christopher Plummer, though Peter Firth (whom I don’t think I’ve heard of) gets top billing on this poster. I know McDowell is a major character, but I’m not sure about Plummer.

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