Saturday, March 17, 2018

Tripping the Rift: The Movie (2008)

Director: Bernie Denk

Writers: Mark Amato, Ken Goin, Lanier Laney, John Minnis, Terry Sweeney

Composer: Mario Sevigny

Starring: Stephen Root, Maurice LaMarche, Jenny McCarthy, John Melendez, Gayle Garfinkle, Rick Jones, Danny Blanco Hall, Daniel Brochu

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Star Wars meets South Park

Plot: What begins for Chode and crew as a routine mission to protect a pissed-off princess will soon become a filth- splattered saga of dismembered royalty, indestructible clown assassins and desperately horny housewives. What vile act has Chode committed to bring down the ultimate wrath of Bobo? Can Gus, Six, T'nuk, Whip and Bob stop a time-traveling killing machine from ruining a booze-soaked birthday party? How much does a lap- dance cost at the Grope-A-Cabana on Omicron 9?

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It seems like forever ago when I first heard of TRIPPING THE RIFT when I saw the original 2000 short.  I'd heard of a TV series and this movie coming out of it but I never saw anything else until now.  From my fondness of the short to the great voice cast, I thought for sure this would be a whole lot of fun.  It's nicely done from a technical standpoint.  It looks good, the voice acting is great and at no point was I bored.  BUT then again it's not nearly as funny as it should be.  I dug the countless movie references.  Those were fun but it's not enough. You need to have some genuine laughs for this to sustain the short 74 minute run time.  I found it amusing but with talent like this, you want to shoot higher than mildly entertaining.  If more time had been spent on the script they probably would've achieved that.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Infiltrator (2016)

Director: Brad Furman

Writers: Ellen Sue Brown, Robert Mazur

Composer: Chris Hajian

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Olympia Dukakis, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, Amy Ryan, Yul Vazquez, Joseph Gilgun, Carsten Hayes, Mark Holden

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The true story of one man against the biggest drug cartel in history.

Plot: A U.S. Customs official uncovers a money laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Definitely.

I liked the film but I didn't love it.  It's a well made picture with good performances and everything is done like you would want in a major motion picture but the one thing that was missing was tension.  I didn't feel it.  Now it's possible this story was meant to be told exactly as it lays out without trying to be more compelling than it is.  If that's the case then they succeeded but if the filmmakers were going for something that had some suspense and more substantial meat to it then it misses the mark.  I'm perfectly OK with that, too, as it's an entertaining and interesting picture.  Over the past couple of years I've watched a lot of films, TV shows (like NARCOS) and documentaries on this subject and they've nearly all been great so maybe, just maybe, I'm approaching the limit or, at the very least, the bar has been set high just from having watched so much good product in a short period of time.  Shit, that was a long sentence.  The performances are very good and fans of any of these fine actors won't go away disappointed.  The only thing I was left with is how odd Cranston looks, at his age in his 60s, sporting that jet black hair and jet black mustache playing a man half his age.  He's such a good actor that he sells it but the sheer darkness of his hair is unnatural.  He was also the executive producer of Robert Mazur's true story.  I watched this on Amazon Prime.  If I came across the Blu on this I'd definitely pick it up if it has extras and the price is right.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dreadnaught (1981)

Original title: Yong Zhe Wu Ju

Director: Woo-Ping Yuen

Writer: Jing Wong

Starring: Biao Yuen, Ka-Yan Leung, Shun-Yee Yuen, Tak-Hing Kwant, Chung-Hsing Chao, Yun-Kin Chow, Lee Chun-Wa, Mei Sheng Fan

More info: IMDb

Plot: A short-tempered, violent criminal named "White Tiger" is on the run from the police and joins a theater troupe for disguise, killing anyone who angers him or who suspects his identity. One person he unsuccessfully tries to kill several times is a cowardly laundry man named "Mousy" who manages to escape mostly by running and hiding. When a very close friend of Mousy's is killed by the White Tiger, Mousy overcomes his cowardliness enough to seek revenge.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not but I'll definitely re-watch the dragon/lion dance scenes again.

I don't know about anyone else but I watch these 70s & 80s Kung Fu flicks for the fights.  The humor rarely hits with me as it's usually coming from way over the top characters who can't possibly exist in real life.  The story just needs to serve as a thread on which the Kung Fu action hangs.  Those are my criteria.  This one is a prime example.  The fights are creative and fun and those dragon/lion dance sequences are just marvelous.  The print I watched looked great in anamorphic widescreen.  It was dubbed in English which wasn't bad but I got the feeling I would have preferred to watch it in the original Cantonese with English subs.  Maybe the overbearing comic relief would've been toned down.  This picture is one of the good ones from a genre and time when there were a lot of bad to just OK films.  It's definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Hell Ship Mutiny (1957)

Directors: Lee Sholem, Elmo Williams

Writers: DeVallon Scott, Wells Root

Composers: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter

Starring: Jon Hall, John Carradine, Peter Lorre, Roberta Haynes, Mike Mazurki, Charles Mauu, Stanley Adams, Danny Richards Jr.

More info: IMDb

Tagline: AN EXCITING STORY!.. Of Passionate Love...and High-Adventure in the South Pacific!

Plot: Jim Knight is the captain of a ship trading in the South Seas. He runs into trouble when he makes port at an island where crooks Malone and Ross hold the natives under their cruel domination while they seek a fortune in pearls. Knight and his crew are taken prisoners and he falls for native princess Mareva, and her non-plump charms are more than enough motivation for Knight to put an end to Malone and his henchmen, and also the the greedy police commissioner Lamoret.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The IMDb trivia says that this 65 minute picture is three episodes of an unsold TV series called KNIGHT OF THE SOUTH SEAS and while watching it it's pretty obvious.  It's one story but you can feel the natural breaks after the first and second 22 minutes.  Hall is decent enough in the lead but he forgot to put that new after shave lotion called Charisma.  Fortunately we've got John Carradine in the role of the bad guy and that guy knows how to play those roles.  He's a cold murderous bastard in this one.  Something else to look forward to is Peter Lorre who wasn't too far off from having finished playing Le Chiffre in CASINO ROYALE (1954) (HELL SHIP was filmed in '55).  You know it's bad when you get a lot of narration and Hall provides plenty of that.  The action is OK as is about everything else.  The only thing that stands out is Carradine and Lorre.  It's on YouTube so check it out free for nothing if you're so inclined.

Friday, March 9, 2018

When Men Carried Clubs and Women Played Ding-Dong (1971)

Original title: Quando gli Uomini Armarono la Clava e... con le Donne Fecero din-don

Director: Bruno Corbucci

Writers: Fabio Pittorru, Masssimo Felisatti, Bruno Corbucci

Composer: Giancarlo Chiaramello

Starring: Antonio Sabato, Aldo Giuffre, Vittorio Caprioli, Nadia Cassini, Howard Ross, Elio Pandolfi, Lucretia Love, Pia Giancaro, Gisela Hahn

More info: IMDb

Tagline: a new name for an old game...

My rating: Prehistoric cave-stud Ari wins lovely virgin Listra in a pig-catching contest, but their attempts at "Ding-Dong" keep getting interrupted by idiot battles between his tribe, The Cave Dwellers, and their neighbors, The Lake Dwellers. Annoyed that hubby would rather make war than Ding-Dong, Listra organizes the women of both tribes to go on strike and "abstain Ding-Dong" until the men stop fighting.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Ah, the Italian cinema.  Back in the 60s and 70s they'd make anything and make it so many times that they'd exhaust a genre completely before moving on to the next "big thing".  The comedy is base level just like you'd expect and there are times when it's mildly amusing.  The trailer tells you everything you need to know in case the title didn't do that all on its own.  It's silly as shit but there are some things that elevate this more than say something in the same genre from Roger Corman.  The Italians bring a certain playfulness to the picture that helps.  And then you also get their European sensibilities...that's just code for boobs!

Female nudity is scattered around until the end that's just enough to keep you watching even if you aren't laughing.  The women ARE FUCKING HOT!  Usually in these caveman pictures they're all attractive except for the older ones (the grandma types).  Corbucci (who co-wrote DJANGO (1966), by the way)) & Co. said "Fuck that shit!  It's all smokin' hot & tan broads in this picture!" and we're better for it.  The dudes have dark tans, too, but there are few good looking ones.  Sabato has a nice build but he's sportin' some wacky ass caveman/mongoloid hair.  If you've watched the trailer, and you should seriously see how dorky this picture is in a nutshell, then you've heard the catchy and goofy as shit theme song.  The print I watched was anamorphic widescreen but it was dirty and the colors were a little dark.  It was in a lot better shape than I woul'dve expected something like this to be in.  It's a reasonably shot flick with a decent enough pacing but the comedy is about as dumb as it can get.  Fortunately, if there's one thing I've learned about Italian movies it's that their women LOVED to get naked!  Aristophanes would be so proud.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Superman! (1975)

Director: Jack Regas

Writers: David Newman, Robert Benton, Romeo Muller

Composer: Charles Strouse

Starring: David Wilson, Lesley Ann Warren, Loretta Swit, Kenneth Mars, Gary Owens, George Chandler, Stuart Goetz, Danny Goldman, Geoffrey Horne, Phil Leeds, Harvey Lembeck, Michael Lembeck, Allen Ludden, Al Molinaro, Irene Tedrow, Malachi Throne, David Wayne, Lou Wills Jr.

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The funniest Superhero story ever!

Plot: TV adaptation of the campy 1960s Broadway musical about the Man of Steel, his friends, his enemies, and his self-image problems.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? Do re mi fa so la ti NO.

The story goes that this started out as a Broadway music in '66 that ran for 129 performances before it closed.  The reviews were pretty good and it even got three Tony nominations for acting.  Not bad.  So for whatever reason (money, anyone?) this TV special was filmed for everyone for all of future mankind to watch and, gulp, enjoy this piece of entertainment.  I gotta say, despite being painfully unfunny (the humor is wayyyy over the top), I laughed out loud a couple of times.  And now, just an hour later, I can't remember what was so funny.  The songs are OK at best and the singing is anywhere from great (Leslie Ann Warren is terrific) to bad (David Wilson struggles but powers through it).  You could make the case that Wilson was most courageous knowing that music is his kryptonite.  I hope he didn't die from it.  One thing I enjoyed was seeing A LOT of names and faces familiar to me.  I'm familiar and fans of literally half the cast.  Even game show hose Allen Ludden (I watched A LOT of games shows as a kid in the 70s) shows up as Perry White.  For that reason alone there was no way I was going to miss seeing this but it's not worth watching and it's often eye-rolling painful.  It's kind of funny that I had the LP of this decades ago and never once listened to it.  That pleases me now that I've seen it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Annihilation (2018)

Director: Alex Garland

Writers: Alex Garland, Jeff VanderMeer

Composers: Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury

Starring: Natalie Portman, Benedict Wong, Sonoya Mizuno, David Gyasi, Oscar Isaac, John Schwab, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson, Sammy Hayman, Josh Danford, Kristen McGarrity

More info: IMDb

Plot: A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don't apply.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  I think so.

This was a picture I was eagerly awaiting.  I LOVED Garland's first (and only other directed) film, EX MACHINA (2014).  That was brilliant. This one looked like a natural next step for him and one that would be a welcome addition to cerebral sci-fi.  Well, I'm not all that fond of it.  It's a good movie but while it's presenting a neat idea, it doesn't live up to its ambitions.  The real meat of the plot is in the last twenty minutes and that's the part I like most, where you finally get the answers the characters (and us) are looking for.  But along the way there are things that happen that tax your suspension of disbelief and two of them are the two creatures we encounter.  They aren't handled as deftly as they should've been.  It's like having a fine expensive meal and the desert looks amazing in its presentation but it's nothing more than store-bought ice cream dressed up to look special.  There's a fast food element to the creatures (and how they're handled) that lets the film turn into a cheap horror movie for a few minutes.  Until the last twenty minutes, at no point did I feel like the film was compelling.  The absence of tension was noticeable.  I thought that perhaps my expectations were too high but ten years ago, with the last Indiana Jones picture, I put the breaks on getting too excited about seeing a film.  So there goes that idea.  ANNIHILATION is good but it doesn't achieve the greatness it feels like it was shooting for.  There is A LOT to like about this flick from the visuals to the wonderful ideas and everything in between but it was disappointing that despite all of that, I wasn't more enamored with it.  I'll probably give this another shot in a few years and perhaps I'll feel differently.  I hope so.