Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012)

Director: Sophie Huber

Starring: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Sam Shepard, Kris Kristofferson, Wim Wenders, Debbie Harry, Jamie James, Logan Sparks

More info: IMDb

Plot: An impressionistic portrait of the iconic actor comprised of intimate moments, film clips from some of his 250 films and his own heart-breaking renditions of American folk songs. Stunningly lensed in color and b/w by Seamus McGarvey, the film explores the actor's enigmatic outlook on his life, his unexploited talents as a musician, and includes candid scenes with David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Sam Shepard, Kris Kristofferson and Debbie Harry. The fragile soul of an actor emerges from the poignant collage.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

What you get out of this is going to depend on what you're looking for.  You'll be disappointed if you want a retrospective on the actor's career.  If you want to hang out with the (90 years old in July) actor and hear his thoughts on this and that but never getting too far into them or providing much detail, then you'll enjoy it.  He sings a lot and it's great.  A few people stop by and reminisce with him but you don't really get much information out of it.  There are very few clips from films but a lot of photographs from his film work and his life.  You're not going to learn much but you can play fly on the wall at his house for an hour.  I'd still like to see a film retrospective of his work and hear the countless stories from the time that he lived with Jack Nicholson in the late 60s and all the wild adventures he got into.  This film gives you a few drops in the bottle of aged whiskey that is HDS. 

Frogs (1972)

Director: George McCowan

Writers: Robert Hutchinson, Robert Blees

Composer: Les Baxter

Starring: Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke, Judy Pace, Lynn Borden, Mae Mercer, David Gilliam, Nicholas Cortland, George Skaff, Lance Taylor Sr., Hollis Irving, Dale Willingham, Hal Hodges, Carolyn Fitzsimmons, Robert Sanders

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  If YOU Are Squeamish Stay Home!!!

Plot:  Jason Crockett is an aging, grumpy, physically disabled millionaire who invites his family to his island estate for his birthday celebration. Pickett Smith is a free-lance photographer who is doing a pollution layout for an ecology magazine. Jason Crockett hates nature, poisoning anything that crawls on his property. On the night of his birthday the frogs and other members of nature begin to pay Crockett back.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Just looking at the poster tells you a little something even though it's A) not funny and B) not about giant frogs that eat people (I would LOVE to see that movie).  It's a standard nature-turning-against-man picture but the appeal is seeing a young (almost 30) Sam Elliott in his first feature starring role and Ray Milland easily playing a right dickheaded grumpy old man.  I've never seen anything less than solid from Milland.  I have so much respect for that guy for winning an Oscar in '45 and still putting in great work in low budget horror movies.  What a class act!  The score is neat.  It's more of an electronic manipulation of insect and animal sounds.  Often it's just an ambiance and it works beautifully.  It was filmed about 90 minutes from my town and it feels so inviting.  I love the soundscape and the location.  This picture certainly has the atmosphere.   The kills are a mixed bag and I'm not sure if it was due to the budget or personnel but it's not like it hurts the picture.  Budget restrictions don't bother me when there's talent in front of and/or behind the camera.  I can't fault anyone for making a movie if their heart's in it.  Yeah, it would've been cooler if the wildlife really cut loose on these people and not just the mean people died.  I was hoping for a higher body count of innocents.  Milland's final moment is pretty weak but it's still a pretty fun flick.  This would have been great to experience at a late night drive-in theater.  The MGM DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with the sole extra in the theatrical trailer in fullscreen.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)

Director: Michael A. Simpson

Writers: Fritz Gordon, Robert Hiltzik

Composer: James Oliverio

Starring: Pamela Springsteen, Tracy Griffith, Michael J. Pollard, Haynes Brooke, Sandra Dorsey, Daryl Wilcher, Kim Wall, Kyle Holman, Cliff Brand, Kashina Kessler, Randi Layne, Chung Yen Tsay, Jarrett Beal, Sonya Maddox, Jill Terashita, Stacie Lambert, Charles Lawlor, Jerry Griffin, Mike Nagel, Richard Crabbe

More info: IMDb

Tagline: She's back to Slash last year's record.

Plot: After murdering a young girl, Angela Baker assumes her identity and travels to Camp New Horizons, built on the grounds of the camp she terrorized the year before, and starts killing again.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

The SLEEPAWAY CAMP films are fun enough but are never as great as they could've been or I would like.  The second one of the trilogy is the best but not by an awful lot.  There are some laughs, lots of nudity (and Michael J. Pollard gets him some!) and bloody kills.  If you've seen the second film then you know who the killer is at the beginning of this one.  That doesn't spoil anything.  It doesn't take long before she's hacking and slashing.  Did I mention the funny?  They really put the camp in Sleepaway Camp.  The first film takes itself more seriously than the second and third.  The acting isn't all that good (I'm looking at you Pamela "sister of Bruce" Springsteen) but that doesn't matter.  She's just bad enough to make it funny.  There are some cute gags like fishing a hockey mask out of the lake.  Some land and some don't but it doesn't really matter.  They made the movie they set out to and it's kind of fun but never boring.  The Anchor bay DVD has a commentary track, behind the scenes footage & outtakes (8 minutes), 19 minutes of deleted scenes from the director's cut and the fullscreen trailer.  I wouldn't mind getting a box set of these but there isn't one currently available.  They're all on Blu-ray individually but they're still about twenty bucks each and that's just too much.  They're not THAT good.  

The Longshot (1986)

Director: Paul Bartel

Writer: Tim Conway

Composer: Charles Fox

Starring:  Tim Conway, Jack Weston, Harvey Korman, Ted Wass, Anne Meara, Frank Bonner, Stella Stevens, George DiCenzo, Edie McClurg, Eddie Deezen, Jonathan Winters

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You'll laugh from start to finish.

Plot: Four losers borrow money from gangsters to bet on a "sure thing" at the horse track. 

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

After just watching Tim Conway's pretty bad, THEY WENT THAT-A-WAY & THAT-A-WAY (1978), I didn't have much hope for this one.  It's definitely better and the cast is fun with lots of cameos from some really funny people.  That's the good part.  The funny isn't consistent but there are more than a few laughs.  The best scene is when Conway goes to Stella Stevens' room.  That shit with the dog was killing me.  There's also some funny lines and it's not a boring film but the silliness sometimes gets in the way from enjoying it.  It's not that bad and there's enough funny to get some enjoyment out of it.  One big oddity is the opening rap song sung by Tim Conway (!) and Ice T.  The MGM DVD comes with  THEY WENT THAT-A-WAY & THAT-A-WAY.  Both films are fullscreen and the only extra is the theatrical trailer (also fullscreen). 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dead & Buried (1981)

Director: Gary Sherman

Writers: Jeff Millar, Alex Stern, Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon

Composer: Joe Renzetti

Starring: James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, Dennis Redfield, Nancy Locke, Lisa Blount, Robert Englund, Bill Quinn, Michael Currie, Christopher Allport, Joseph G. Medalis, Macon McCalman, Lisa Marie, Estelle Omens, Barry Corbin

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The writers of alien... ...bring a new terror to earth.

Plot: A suspense horror film set in a small coastal town where, after a series of gory murders commited by mobs of townspeople against visiting tourists, the corpses begin to come back to life.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

It surprises me constantly how long I go missing movies I should've seen in my youth.  This is a prime example.  I remember seeing the VHS cover in the video stores all throughout the 80s and not once did I even pick it up.  It was a badass cover but I was always sure that the movie couldn't possibly live up to it.  Well, it does.  It's a great horror/thriller.  Good performaces (great cast) and the mystery stays that way until the filmmakers want you to know.  I'm cool with that.  Good score, too and I love the late 70s/early 80s horror look.  It's a really well made horror flick.  I just wish I'd seen it sooner.  Someday I'll pick up the Blue Underground Blu-ray. 

Heavens Above! (1963)

Directors: John Boulting, Roy Boulting

Writers: Frank Harvey, John Boulting, Malcolm Muggeridge

Composer: Richard Rodney Bennett

Starring:  Pete Sellers, Cecil Parker, Isabel Jeans, Ian Carmichael, Bernard Miles, Brock Peters, Eric Sykes, Irene Handl, Miriam Karlin, Joan Miller, William Hartnell, Roy Kinnear

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Where 'I'm All Right Jack" left off... this takes off!

Plot:  Peter Sellers stars as a young vicar whose tendencies to interpret Christian doctrines in his own individualistic way, rather than conform to church traditions, leads to all kinds of chaos. He really believes, for example, in taking from the rich to give the poor.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Fine performances are given by the entire cast.  No surprise there, they're British.  It's a mildly amusing film that gets milder as it goes until it the solution to everyone's problem (Reverend Smallwood (Sellers)) is found.  Then it gets ridiculous as if the ending belonged in a different film altogether.  The ending isn't horrible but it's almost out of left field.  When things are at their very worst for Smallwood and his community, and they get REALLY bad, the church big wigs get with the government big cheeses to fix the problem which means, in part, getting rid of Smallwood.  What happens next feels better suited to a different film.  I was really involved in the picture until then.  It was getting quite serious but still within the confines of a light comedy.  Anyway, I'm beating a dead horse.  Sellers is quite good and plays the character with a little wink but it's some of his supporting cast that get more of the funny.   The Anchor Bay DVD has a great anamorphic widescreen print with no extras. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Molly and Lawless John (1972)

Director: Gary Nelson

Writer: Terry Kingsley-Smith

Composer: Johnny Mandel

Starring: Vera Miles, Sam Elliott, Clu Gulager, John Anderson, Cynthia Myers, Charles Pinney, Bob Westmoreland, Melinda Chavaria, Pasqualita Baca, George Le Bow, Dave Burleson, Grady Hill, Dick Bullock, Terry Kingsley-Smith

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A Wanted Man ... A Willing Woman ... too willing.

Plot: Molly, the shy, romance-starved wife of an arrogant frontier sheriff, finds herself drawn to a prisoner in her husband's jail. This prisoner, a handsome young man named Johnny, plays on Molly's sympathy and convinces her to help him escape. Molly then accompanies Johnny on his cross-country flight but soon learns he's simply been using her. Molly makes the best of the situation, however, and by the time the sheriff's posse catches up with them, Molly shows that she's learned how to assert herself.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Right off the bat you know Johnny (Elliott) is a real bastard so it's no surprise that he continues to do really shitty things until the credits roll.  He's hot and cold with Molly (Miles) alternating between being nice to her and treating her like shit.  He's just awful but she puts up with it.  Johnny has no character arc.  He doesn't need one.  This is Molly's story and it's a well-written story focusing on her.  The problem is it's often dull and lifeless.  There's very little music.  To make it worse I saw it on a crappy fullscreen DVD from Mill Creek.  The colors were bad and the darks were atrocious.  At least the sound was OK.  A better presentation would've helped but only a little.  This is Nelson's first feature as a director but he had an impressive amount of TV gigs for ten years prior.  Maybe tightening the movie up with some editing would help.  It's a shame it didn't fare better as it's a good story with some good performances.  I loved the ending.  Go Molly!