Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Composer: Hans Zimmer

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: At the point of crisis, at the point of annihilation, survival is victory.

Plot: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

DUNKIRK forgoes any character development to concentrate on the gravity of the situation.  We don't need to feel a connection to any of these people because we should care about all of them as they're all in the same boat so to speak.  We want all of these men to make it home alive.  That means the film can stay focused the bravery of these people and get a glimpse of what it must've been like.  We get the perspective from those who contributed from the land, air and sea and there's an interesting device used to convey a sense of time.  As each of the three is introduced, there's a title card that tells us the time frame.  The land operation takes place over a week, the sea a day and by air an hour.  Writer/director Nolan doesn't waste time.  The film opens with nearly 400,000 soldiers waiting on the beach to be rescued and an effort to enlist civilian boats has begun.  What follows are men dying and others struggling to survive.  Zimmer does a fine job with the score.  He doesn't provide melodic themes so much as augmented, droning, atmospheric sound.  It worked nicely.  While it's only an hour and forty-six minutes long (including several minutes of end credits) nearly the entire picture is that struggle meaning it's constant tension.  It's not the grand slam the internet tells me it is but I like it very much.  I don't know what could've been different for me to like it even more but it might have something to do with being emotionally invested in the main characters.  As it is, the only reason why I cared about them is because I don't want to see the good guys lose.  Besides, they all needed to get home quick so they can rest up and get back to giving the Jerrys what fer!

You Can't Win 'Em All (1970)

Director: Peter Collinson

Writer: Leo Gordon

Composer: Bert Kaempfert

Starring: Tony Curtis, Charles Bronson, Michele Mercier, Patrick Magoo, Fikret Hakan, Gregoire Aslan, Leo Gordon, John Alderson, Tony Bonner, Horst Janson, John Acheson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Two soldiers of fortune matching wits and guns against the armies of two nations!

Plot: During the 1922 Turkish Civil War, two Americans and a group of foreign mercenaries offer their services to a local Turkish governor who hires them as guards for a secret transport.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

#49 on Project: Badass Charles Bronson

LEVEL OF BADASSICITY (10 being the highest): 9

Charles Bronson in his prime at 49 in 1970.  'Nuff said.  I'm surprised I hadn't seen this one before but that's OK because, as one of my favorite action heroes, I welcome every opportunity to see a Bronson picture for the first time (well, almost).  This one is fun.  Bronson smiles a lot and looks to be enjoying himself.  I like that rarely seen side of him.  Tony Curtis plays his usual happy go lucky, always on the make with the ladies character that he played so often during this period which is fine as he's very good at it.  Bronson grins and kicks a lot of ass but it's Curtis that provides the occasional laughs and some of his reactions are very, very funny.  There's plenty of outdoor war action going on and the location shooting in Turkey makes this even more special and different.   Patrick Magee is fourth billed but he doesn't show up until the last 6 minutes.  He probably put in one day's work for a nice little paycheck.  The Turkish landscape is beautiful and I can't say enough about how refreshing it was to see such a different type of landscape and period this film was set.

As you can see by the above video, Bronson logs in 41 kills.  He would've had more.  In fact, not many people know this but it was in his contract that he would get all of the kills in every movie because he felt, and rightfully so, that no one would ever believe that any of his co-stars would be able to get a kill in while Bronson was on the job.  It's still hard for me to accept that his kill count isn't in the hundreds.  It turns out that behind that super masculinity and solid testosterone lies a compassionate man so, at least for this picture, he was generous enough to allow Curtis to get a couple of lethal shot in and some of the other cast members.  I guess he felt bad for some of his crew that didn't get any speaking lines so he told the director, producers and studio that some of the other fellas can shoot some mofos dead.  It's a little known story but I swear it's true because I just made it up.  Another top Hollywood secret is that the studios would allow scenes in his romantic comedies where he would off a bunch of lowlifes only to have the footage end up on the cutting room floor.  Bronson never knew this as he wouldn't watch his own movies and it was only after his death that that little piece of skulduggery was leaked out.  They even waited 8 years to release it for fear that a freshly deceased Bronson was still a lethal Bronson. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Traveling Executioner (1970)

Director: Jack Smight

Writer: Garrie Bateson

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: Stacy Keach, Marianna Hill, Bud Cort, Graham Jarvis, James Slyan, M. Emmet Walsh, John Bottoms, Ford Rainey, James Greene, Sam Reese, Stefan Gierasch, Logan Ramsey, Charles Tyner, William Mims, Val Avery, Walter Barnes, Charlie Briggs, Paul Gauntt

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  1918. The year this man traveled the South with a portable electric chair.

Plot:  Stacy Keach is an ex-con who in 1918 travels around the bayou with a portable electric chair. At $100 a head, he renders his services with loving care. But then he falls for a female "client".

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

What an unusual film this is.  Stacy Keach is fantastic.  He knocks it out of the park.  He's got two tender, passionate monologues, one at the beginning and one at the end.  It's good stuff.  I dig the setting of 1918 Louisiana, although it was filmed in Alabama and it could've just as well have taken place there.  It's a quirky film that gets even more odd when Jonas (Keach) cooks up a scheme to free Gundred (Hill) and he has to come up with a lot of dough to grease a few palms at the prison.  In his desperation he makes a big mistake and his predicament goes south and fast.  The final twenty minutes is some of the best work in the picture and it's worth sitting through everything else (even if you don't dig it as much as I did) just for the final act.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Murder Clinic (1966)

Original title: La Lama nel Corpo

Director: Elio Scardamaglia

Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi, Luciano Martino, Robert Williams

Composer: Francesco De Masi

Starring: William Berger, Francoise Prevost, Mary Young, Barbara Wilson, Philippe Hersent, Harriet Medin, Germano Longo, Massimo Righi, Delfi Mauro, Anna Maria Polani, Rossella Bergamonti, William Gold

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Bloodletter! Bone-chilling! The thing is subhuman and it has a knife!

Plot: Patients and staff of an isolated mental hospital are being killed off by a hooded maniac who stalks the halls.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I don't think the Giallo genre is for me.  I've liked so few of them and the rest often have pacing issues.  This picture looks fantastic.  The period look rivals that of Hammer.  De Masi's score has some really nice moments.  The acting (I watched an English dub) gets a tad too dramatic at times but it was fine for what it was but I just couldn't stay engaged.  It took a few attempts to get through it.  On paper and considering that it looks like a high quality picture, I expected more...and that's while I'm watching it, thinking this is going to be good as it unfolds.  I'll say this much, they kept me guessing who the killer was and I reckon I wasn't disappointed by the ending so much.  Geez, this was slow.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Homicidal (1961)

Director: William Castle

Writer: Robb White

Composer: Hugo Friedhofer

Starring: Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, Alan Bunce, Richard Rust, James Westerfield, Gilbert Green, Joan Marshall, Wolfe Barzell, Teri Brooks, William Castle, Joseph Forte, Ralph Moody, 'Snub' Pollard, Hope Summers

More info: IMDb

Tagline: SPECIAL "FRIGHT BREAK" * There will be a special FRIGHT BREAK during the showing of "Homicidal." Can your heart stand the challenge when the clock starts the COUNTDOWN?

Plot: The brutal stabbing murder of a justice-of-the-peace sparks an investigation of dark family secrets in a sleepy small town in Southern California.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

This is William Castle's answer to Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) and it's not a bad one at that.  I'm not going to spoil anything and I recommend that if you're ever going to watch this to not allow yourself to be spoiled.  The ending is a great mind fuck and I was pleasantly surprised that it caught me off guard.  I LOVED the ending.  For most of the picture I was wondering if they'd have a good conclusion to all of this because it was a mixed bag for most of it.  The acting is good enough except for one actor and that one person bugged the shit out of me.  You get a great kill in the first twenty minutes that was harsh considering it was coming from Castle.  The mystery is a good one but it's the ending that makes it great.  I can't help but go apeshit for the ending.  Anyway, Castle just has to have a gimmick so he puts a clock on the screen near the end and warns the viewer.  That was awful.  Any tension he'd built up to then was ruined with that one move.  For me it boils down to some really great scenes and ideas marred by that gimmick of the warning clock and the general lower budget and filmmaking.  Had this material been handled with great seriousness to maximize the horror and suspense, it would be a classic.  I'm sure a European filmmaker could've done justice with this material.  As it is though, it's still a fun ride with one hell of a climax.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)

Director: Mark Cousins

Writer: Mark Cousins

Starring: Mark Cousins, Juan Diego Botto

More info:  IMDb

Tagline: Made over six years, on four continents, covering 11 decades and a thousand films.

Plot: A comprehensive history of the medium and art of motion pictures.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

This 15-hour documentary on the history of film is staggering in its comprehension alone.  It's told from a lover of quality art film so most people will find it pretentious as I did at times.  The sheer amount of films discussed will have movie fans struggling to keep up writing the titles down to watch later.  I gave up minutes into the first episode and gave myself to the program.  It was a wonderful ride but there is one hangup - the narration (by Cousins, I think).  He has a manner of speaking that leaves most sentences leaning upward as if it were a question.  It's annoying and it took at least the first couple of hours before I was used to it and grew to like it.  I guess you could say I had no choice for if I wanted to continue the next 13 hours I'd have to accept it.  There are times where he's pretentious on his own merit, strange question speak not withstanding.  And there was one point where he came off as a complete asshole when he bluntly said that anyone who doesn't like this film (I forget which picture he was talking about) is wrong (both critics and laypeople).  I'm sorry, but any medium is subjective.  Something might generally accepted as beautiful, brilliant or well made but not everyone is going to see it that way.  That angered me even if I felt he could be right.  It's a lot to absorb and it's easy to feel small (I've probably seen over 10,000 movies in my lifetime and I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable and I felt inadequately prepared for this, discovering more movies that I didn't even know about), but get over it quickly and get through this.  For me, it's hearing others discuss movies.  At the very least, this is worth watching for the extraordinary amount of beautiful imagery that is burned on film forever (hopefully).

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Enemies of Reason (2007)

Director: Russell Barnes

Writer: Richard Dawkins

Composer:  Glenn Keiles

Starring: Richard Dawkins, Derren Brown, Deepak Chopra, Chris French, Craig Hamilton-Parker, Nicholas Humphrey, Satish Kumar

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Professor and well-known skeptic spends 90 minutes exploring many beliefs people have that go against proven science.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Richard Dawkins: "We should be open minded but not so open minded that our brains fall out."

The first half of this British TV documentary tackles such wacky shit as astrology, water dowsing, psychics and so on.  These are low hanging fruit and make easy targets but there's an extraordinary amount of people who believe in them and waste billions of dollars on them.  But they also offer the easiest and most accessible subjects to introduce to those unaware of how easily they can be explained as bogus.  That's just what Dawkins does.  His voice is pleasing, his questions are just and his explanations are sound.  This is the fun half of the program.  The second half gets serious and deals strictly with health and medicine tackling homeothapy among others.  This is much more dry and less entertaining but it's just as informative and important.  You don't have to be a skeptic to enjoy this.  It's fun and you'll learn something coming from the very real world of science and reality which is far more fascinating than superstition and the supernatural.  I've seen this twice in the past yen years so I think that's enough.