Happy holidays, listeners! Every year, we take on an unconventional Christmas movie around the Yuletide season, and this time we (along with returning guest Mark Soloff of Blastropodcast) dip back to investigate Tim Burton's deeply strange, fascinatingly weird superhero flick Batman Returns!
After Burton's first Batman revitalized the superhero movie as a pop culture phenomenon, he decided to get real strange with it in Batman Returns. Ostensibly, the film features a pitched battle between the Caped Crusader (Michael Keaton) and his arch-nemeses, the Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer); but it manifests itself in a strange story about mayoral races, masquerade balls and fake news campaigns to discredit Batman. The most dastardly plan anyone has in the film is Trumpian billionaire Max Schreck (Christopher Walken), who schemes to, like... build a power plant?
None of the plot dressing matters, though, since the film itself is a dazzling display of Burton's biggest idiosyncrasies - pale outcasts with mountains of guyliner, Gothic cityscapes, and mountains of quirky Danny Elfman scoring. This is the least Batman-y Batman film to date (and we should know), which might well be the biggest point in its favor.
Anyway, listen to us debate the film's finer, freakier points, along with our custom drinking game!
Every year, the Alcohollywood podcast takes the week before Christmas to celebrate the life and works of Sir Harry Connick Jr. - actor, musician, Renaissance Man.
Harry Connickuh, listeners! For this episode, we take our appreciation for Harry Connick Jr. all the way to the beginning - his breakout film debut in the 1990 WWII drama Memphis Belle. Connick joins a cavalcade of other young 90s stars (Matthew Modine, Sean Astin, Tate Donovan, Eric Stoltz, Billy Zane and more) as the crew of a B-17 bomber on its last mission before ending its tour of duty.
While director Michael Caton-Jones (Asher) does an admirable job replicating the oo-rah spirit of old WWII pro-US propaganda films, that's also what keeps Memphis Belle from really taking off. It's hard to make a movie all that compelling when you have to keep track of ten similar-looking white dudes with one personality trait, all working as a unit to accomplish a pretty tension-free mission. The claustrophobic action, which mostly takes place inside the cramped bomber of the title, is novel, but it all gets dull after a while. Still, Connick's his laconic, charming self as always, and he even gets a couple songs to sing!
Check out our thoughts on this WWII homage, along with our custom drinking game for the film, here.
We only had time for one episode last month, so we're double-dipping this week by extending 00-vember into 00-cember! We move from Timothy Dalton to Pierce Brosnan with the 1997 007 flick Tomorrow Never Dies!
Sure, Goldeneye revitalized the Bond franchise, introduced a stellar new Bond in Pierce Brosnan, and updated the secret agent to reflect more on his "sexist, misogynist dinosaur" nature. But then Austin Powers came out and made a bunch of money, so 007 had to get goofy again with his next adventure. And goofy he gets, as Tomorrow Never Dies is a quaintly dated spy caper in which James Bond must stop a mincingly evil media mogul (Jonathan Pryce) from starting a war between Britain and China just to soak up all the ratings.
Still, for all its goofiness, it absolutely has its charms - from David Arnold bursting onto the scene with a bombastic score, a couple of great theme songs at both ends of the film, and Michelle Yeoh kicking ass as one of the most capable Bond girls to date.
It's an ugly duckling that Clint loves far too much for his own good. Hear us talk about its pros and cons on the podcast, and check out our drinking game!
As a busy Thanksgiving month winds down, we realized that we haven't talked about a James Bond film for literally 200 episodes. To that end, we decided to get in a little 00-vember action with the severely underappreciated James Bond film The Living Daylights!
The first of Timothy Dalton's two films as 007 (a criminally short tenure), The Living Daylights is one of the most thrilling Bond pictures no one talks about. Sure, the story is a bit muddy and convoluted - a disorienting spy caper involving botched defections, diamonds, opium, arms deals, cellos and two different villains (Joe Don Baker and Jeroen Krabbe)- but Dalton's stripped-down, intense take on the secret agent is a breath of fresh air after 14 years of Roger Moore camp.
The Living Daylights also has some of the most exciting, comparatively grounded action scenes in the franchise, and a cracking final score from John Barry that mixes electronic sounds in an unobtrusive way long before David Arnold came along. This film tends to be one of the unsung children of the Bond franchise, but damnit, we're going to sing its praises till the opium comes home.
Check out our thoughts on the film and its legacy in the Bond franchise, along with our custom drinking rules!
As we continue to wrap up our coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival, it's important to take a look at some of the smaller stuff that came out of the fest, especially those set in the city the festival calls home. Gregory Dixon's vibrant, energetic indie coming-of-age dramedy Olympia is a rather fun breath of fresh air - the tale of a conflicted thirtysomething (writer/star McKenzie Chinn) struggling to make ends meet at a dead-end job, dealing with a dying mother in the hospital, and fighting with her boyfriend (Charles Andrew Gardner) about whether Chicago is really the right place for her.
Chinn's script is relaxed and acerbic, the performances are naturalistic and witty, and Dixon's stylized approach captures the verve of Chicago alongside the jazzy, pop-infused score from Josh Coffey and Otto Sharp. (You can read our capsule review from our CIFF dispatches here.)
While at the festival, I got the chance to sit down with Chinn, Dixon and Gardner to talk about the struggles of getting the film made, Chicago as an vital artistic resource, and the importance for women of color to tell their own stories.
Howdy, listeners! Today we're saddling up and sucking back some moonshine to an old Western classic, 1969's True Grit! (NOTE: I have used my pun quota for this episode; the rest of this post is safe for consumption).
Along with guest panelist Gavin, Jared and Clint tackle the impertinence of Mattie Ross, a little history of Oklahoma, and the nuances of a John Wayne performance, as they provide their signature drinking rules for this film.
Happy Alcohol-loween! We close out our Seven Deadly Sins edition of Horror Octorbor by going old-school for Wrath - the vengeance-filled slasher Friday the 13th!
Sure, this is the one that doesn't have Jason in it - see our Freddy vs. Jason episode for our thoughts on the hockey-mashed butcher - but Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) still has some bloody fates in store for the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake. From Kevin Bacon's horny teen to, well, the less-famous fodder around him, Sean S. Cunningham's inaugural effort in the long running franchise serves up plenty of arrow piercings, machete decapitations, and more.
But is it enough? Can we go back to a franchise almost forty years old and see the strengths of a straightforward slasher that was innovative at the time? Or do the kills and stripped-down simplicity seem quaint in today's world of horror pastiches and self-aware tropes? Let's find out - check out our podcast and drinking game!
While dysfunctional family dramas are arguably a dime a dozen, Elizabeth Chomko's Chicago-centric debut What They Had stands out substantially from the pack. A touching, heartfelt tale of a woman (Hilary Swank) who returns home to help her brother (Michael Shannon) and father (Robert Forster) care for her Alzheimer's-afflicted mother (Blythe Danner), What They Had is refreshingly nuanced, filled with strong, witty dialogue and incredible performances from its lead cast.
While at the Chicago International Film Festival, we sat down with Chomko for a roundtable discussion (along with Pat McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com and Al and Linda Lerner of MoviesandShakers.com) - with Forster popping in as a late-interview surprise. Check out our roundtable, along with that wonderful cameo, in our podcast below.
The world of contemporary art is a wild, wild thing - millionaires bidding incredible amounts of money to collect works from modern artists based on reputation, potential future valuation, or even (on occasion) the actual aesthetic value of the piece. In his upcoming HBO documentary The Price of Everything, filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn (My Architect) takes an in-depth look at this strange mix of art and commerce, getting unfettered access to art collectors and the artists who themselves toe a precarious line between artistic statement and financial solvency.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Kahn himself to talk about the film, these issues, and the value of artistic merit in an increasingly commodified art world. Check out our podcast minisode featuring the interview here, and read the edited transcript below.
Horror Octorbor keeps a-chuggin' along this month, as we continue to break down the seven deadly sins! This week, we take a look at Envy in the context of 1992's erotic psychological thriller Single White Female!
In the vein of other 90s domestic horror films like The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Unlawful Entry, Single White Female explores the kind of dangers that could happen even in the safety of your home. Here, that's manifested in Hedy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the mousy new roommate of recently-separated fashion designer Allie (Bridget Fonda). The more time Hedy spends with Allie, though, the more she affects Allie's speech, mannerisms and appearance - right down to making moves on her estranged husband Sam (Steven Weber).
Does she want to be like Allie? Does she want to become Allie? The answers are surprisingly grotesque, and more than a little complicated - rooted in some clumsy, but well-intentioned, queer subtexts and a couple of deliciously arch performances from Fonda and Leigh, directed with a certain lurid sensibility by Barbet Schroeder.
Check out what we thought about this ominous tale of female sexuality and psychological desire, along with our custom drinking game!
DRINKING RULES FOR SINGLE WHITE FEMALE:
- Any time you see a red flag (Hedy adopts another Allie-ism)
- Every time you see a scene outside the apartment
- Whenever you see nudity (this is an *erotic* thriller, after all)
FINISH YOUR DRINK WHEN:
Hedy looks into a mirror and says, "I love myself like this."
Join us next week as we conclude our Seven Deadly Sins edition of Horror Octorbor with Greed - best personified by Michael Mann's bat-nuts crazy 1983 film The Keep!
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