Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Freeway (1996)

Director: Matthew Bright

Writer: Matthew Bright

Composer: Danny Elfman

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Reese Witherspoon, Bokeem Woodbine, Wolfgang Bodison, Dan Hedaya, Kitty Fox, Alanna Ubach, Brooke Shields, Amanda Plummer, Brittany Murphy, Tara Subkoff

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Her life is no fairy tale.

Plot: A twisted take on 'Little Red Riding Hood' with a teenage juvenile delinquent on the run from a social worker traveling to her grandmother's house and being hounded by a charming, but sadistic, serial killer/pedophile.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Great flick!  It's nothing like I expected and it's (darkly) funny as shit!  Writer/director Matthew Bright just made my radar.  I didn't realize I'd already seen another of his movies, TED BUNDY (2002), and that he wrote the incredibly entertaining FORBIDDEN ZONE () (which explains why Danny Elfman did the score for this picture).  Witherspoon and Sutherland are pitch perfect in their roles but the biggest star is the script.  It takes a lot of twists and turns that get creative as shit and funner than hell!!  I love that Dan Hedaya is in this and Amanda Plummer.  The prison scenes are a riot.  And did you notice the wonderfully long takes when Bob (Sutherland) and Vanessa (Witherspoon) are riding in the car?  Nice!  And Danny Elfman's score is off the charts weird and wild.  I must've blinked during the opening credits or something because I didn't realize he scored it.  Based on what I heard I would have never guessed it was him.  This is a really fun picture.  Now, then, the Lionsgate DVD...I've got the 2007 re-release disc and it's ridiculous.  The film isn't formatted to fit HDTVs (despite the packaging saying that it does), it's got the original old-ass menu that lists the sole extra (besides the fullscreen trailer) as "Directors Narration" (complete with the omission of the apostrophe between the 'r' and 's' and calling it narration instead of commentary - I know, that's nitpicking).  I'm selling my copy and I'll hold out for a proper DVD/Blu-ray release.

Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970)

Director: Ossie Davis

Writers: Chester Himes, Arnold Perl, Ossie Davis

Composer: Galt MacDermot

Starring: Godfrey Cambridge, Raymond St. Jacques, Calvin Lockhart, Judy Pace, Redd Foxx, Emily Yancy, John Anderson, Lou Jacobi, Eugene Roche, J.D. Cannon, Mabel Robinson, Dick Sabol, Cleavon Little

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Introducing COFFIN ED and GRAVEDIGGER, two detectives only a mother could love.

Plot: Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are two black cops with a reputation for breaking the odd head. Both are annoyed at the success of the Reverend Deke O'Mailey who is selling trips back to Africa to the poor on the installment plan. When his truck is hijacked and a bale of cotton stuffed with money is lost in the chase, Harlem is turned upside down by Gravedigger and Coffin Ed, the Reverend, and the hijackers.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I don't care what it is, if Redd Foxx or Godfrey Cambridge are in it, I'll watch it.  Cambridge is having a blast from start to finish and he's a lot of fun but sadly Foxx's role is pretty brief...but classic!   

It's pretty standard crime/action/Blaxploitation fare with a few laughs here and there.  It's over-the-top and goofy sometimes but it's the cast that makes this watchable.  The striptease on the bale of cotton has got to be seen to be believed.  Unfortunately every release of this is fullscreen.  The MGM DVD I've got (make that had after this weekend's garage sale) only has the theatrical trailer as an extra.  Hell, even the Blu-ray that's coming out on 9/9/14 is listed as being fullscreen.  The fuck?

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Director: John Huston

Writers: Ben Maddow, John Huston. W.R. Burnett

Composer: Miklos Rozsa

Starring: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, John McIntire, Marc Lawrence, Barry Kelley, Anthony Caruso, Teresa Celli, Marilyn Monroe, William 'Wee Willie' Davis, Dorothy Tree, Brad Dexter, John Maxwell, Frank Cady, Strother Martin, Jack Warden

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The City Under the City

Plot: A major heist goes off as planned, until bad luck and double crosses cause everything to unravel.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

The pedigree of this thing with everyone behind and in front of the camera is huge.  It's a great flick where the heist goes right but the dominoes start falling one by one after it's over, leaving no one safe.  This is a great companion piece to Kubrick's THE KILLING (1956) which also stars Hayden in an even more badass mode.  This picture has a few surprises.  Nearly every main character breaks the law in some way...and you're rootin' for 'em.  Part of it might be because films back then didn't allow for the bad guys to get away with it but then we're also spending nearly all of our time with these crooks and barely anything with the cops (and even some of the cops are crooked).  I REALLY like how Doc's (Jaffe) storyline plays out.  The way the camera fixates on what he's watching and thinking is powerful stuff.  Great Miklos Rozsa score, too.  It's a great film all the way around and a must-see for fans of film noir or crime pictures in general.  The Warner Bros. DVD is pretty light on extras (you know, considering how famous this picture is and all) with a brief introduction by John Huston, the theatrical trailer and a commentary by Drew Casper and James Whitmore (I'd be really interested to hear what Whitmore has to say).

Uncommon Valor (1983)

Director: Ted Kotcheff

Writer: Joe Gayton, Wings Hauser

Composer: James Horner

Starring: Gene Hackman, Robert Stack, Fred Ward, Reb Brown, Randall 'Tex' Cobb, Patrick Swayze, Harold Sylvester, Tim Thomerson, Alice Lau, Kwan Hi Lim, Kelly Junkerman, Todd Allen, Gail Strickland

More info: IMDb

Tagline: "C'mon... we're going home."

Plot: A group of Vietnam War veterans re-unite to rescue one of their own left behind and taken prisoner by the Vietnamese.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Eh, so-so action flick where the only real saving grace is the cast headed by Hackman.  I'll pretty much watch anything he, Thomerson, Cobb or Ward does so it's kind of a treat to see so many cats I dig in one spot.  It's a now-typical 80s 'let's go back to 'Nam and bring our boys home' flick.  Everything's about as you would expect with the usual amount of time spent on gathering the men for the mission, training for the mission and, well, the mission.  There's nothing special about any of it.  It's mildly entertaining but worth seeing for the cast.  Explosions-a-plenty with some unnecessary deaths  in the typical self-sacrificing kind of way.  Fans (or haters) of James Horner will recognize his usual musical ideas he's used in his scores before and since.  The Paramount DVD doesn't come with a single extra.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Willard (2003)

Director: Glen Morgan

Writers: Glen Morgan, Gilbert Ralston, Stephen Gilbert

Composer: Shirley Walker

Starring: Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Harring, Jackie Burroughs, Ashlyn Gere, William S. Taylor, Edward Horn, Gus Lynch, Laara Sadiq, David Parker, Ty Olsson, Kristen Cloke

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A new breed of friendship

Plot: Willard is an awkward, inept young man ostracized by the world around him. His gloomy existence takes a turn for the weird, though, when he discovers that his connection with a pet rat has gained him acceptance among the ranks of rodentia, and soon, Willard is using his new found army of vermin to get revenge on everyone who's done him wrong.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

I tell you what, you couldn't have picked a better lead than Crispin Glover and a better asshole of a boss than R. Lee Ermy.  They're both fantastic.  Then there's the rats.  I haven't seen the original or its sequel and yet I've now seen this one twice. I need to fix that. Good score by Shirley Walker.  The pacing is pretty good although it seems a little long which could be that there's another twenty minutes after Willard (Glover) dispenses with his boss (Ermy).  The rats attacking the cat had me squeamish.  That cat was fucked no matter how you sliced it and you knew it was doomed as soon it was introduced.  For a picture that takes as long as it does to get to the goods, it's fun and engaging and you can partially thank Glover and Ermy for keeping acting dynamic interesting and director Morgan & Co. for making it believable.  The New Line Platinum Series DVD has a commentary with director Glen Morgan, Producer James Wong, and actors Crispin Glover and R. Lee Ermy, a 73 minute (!) making of documentary, another documentary on rats (19 minutes), a music video of Glover performing "Ben", deleted and alternate scenes, the theatrical trailer and TV spots. 

The Pyx (1973)

Director: Harvey Hart

Writers: Robert Schlitt, John Buell

Composer: Harry Freedman

Starring: Karen Black, Christopher Plummer, Donald Pilon, Jean-Lous Roux, Yvette Brind'amour, Jacques Godin, Lee Broker, Terry Haig, Robin Gammell, Louise Rinfret

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Demons Hunger

Plot: A detective investigating the death of a heroin-addicted prostitute uncovers evidence pointing to the existence of a murderous devil cult.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

The Trinity Home Entertainment DVD is a mixed bag.  I was pleased that the film is presented in what looks like its original aspect ration of 2.35 : 1 and it's formatted for 16:9, but the image is dirty and dark.  I'm OK with filthy prints, especially with films like this where it sometimes adds to the experience, but the image is often so dark it's difficult to see everything as it was intended. The end credits are almost completely illegible.  The disc does not include any extras, not even a trailer.  As for the movie, it's not that bad.  Some will find it a little slow and it might take some time to get used to the mixing of the flashbacks of Elizabeth's (Black) last day with Detective Henderson's (Plummer) investigation of her death.  The performances are quite good and the music score and songs (sung by Black) work very well, too.  Perhaps with a better print I might have enjoyed the film more.  Or better still, if I could have seen this 40 years ago at a drive-in...that would have been fun.

Friday, August 29, 2014

RoboCop 2 (1990)

Director: Irvin Kershner

Writers: Frank Miller, Walon Green

Composer: Leonard Rosenman

Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O'Herlihy, Belinda Bauer, Tom Noonan, Gabriel Damon, Galyn Gorg, Felton Perry, Stephen Lee, Willard E. Pugh, Roger Aaron Brown, John Glover, Leeza Gibbons, Yogi Baird

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He's back to protect the innocents.

Plot: After a successful deployment of the Robocop Law Enforcement unit, OCP sees its goal of urban pacification come closer and closer. But as this develops, a new narcotic known as "Nuke" invades the streets led by God-delirious leader Kane. As this menace grows, it may prove to be too much for Murphy to handle. OCP tries to replicate the success of the first unit, but ends up with failed prototypes with suicidal issues... until Dr. Faxx, a scientist straying away from OCP's path uses Kane as the new subject for the Robocop 2 project, a living God.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I saw this in the theater, hated it and I haven't seen it since.  I can't even tell you why I didn't like it it's been so long.  I don't know what's changed but it's actually pretty fun.  It's not a great follow up to the badassicity that was ROBOCOP (1987) and it's not nearly as violent or funny but it has its moments.  The best thing about it is the extraordinary amount of stop motion animation.  That final battle between Robocop and Cain is balls-out awesome with the stop motion.  That blew me away.  There's at least an attempt to capture the humor found in the first one with things like the telethon and the contortionist playing the violin but it's not as wild as the first one.  It doesn't necessarily have to live up to the first film in every way but this first sequel falls short in every way.  The story isn't that bad and there's a lot to like but it's lacking the maturity and assuredness the first film had.  I've never seen the third one but I'll fix that soon.  My expectations have been lowered.