Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

Director: Anatole Litvak

Writer: Lucille Fletcher

Composer:  Franz Waxman

Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey, Harold Vermilyea, Ed Begley, Leif Erickson, William Conrad, John Bromfield, Jimmy Hunt, Dorothy Neuman, Paul Fierro

More info: IMDb

Tagline: She overheard the plans for her own destruction!

Plot:  Leona Stevenson is sick and confined to her bed. One night, whilst waiting for her husband to return home, she picks up the phone and accidentally overhears a conversation between two men planning a murder. She becomes increasingly desperate as she tries to work out who the victim is so the crime can be prevented.

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

OK, so I'm watching this picture and it's annoying all crazy like with the tennis match of characters giving an awful lot of exposition.  Then you've got Stanwyck on a freak out/screaming binge that lasts several minutes.  I wanted to shut it off for a while to get that shrill out of my head.  Geez, was that annoying.  That's mostly the first half of the picture.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that the second half is pretty damn good and it's got one of the best endings I've ever seen.  HOLY SHIT!!!  WOW!!!  It's worth sitting through the discomforting first half to get to that finale moment.  I'm shocked.  I'm flummoxed.  Somebody just hit me upside the head with the WTF stick.  It is a good thriller except for that first half that really threw me of.  The ending is so good that I went from knowing I'd never watch it again to at least giving it another chance someday.  And the buildup in the last ten minutes is pretty damn tense.  I'm really surprised that Paramount had the balls to do it.  Just.  WOW!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale (2009)

Director:  Richard Shepard

Composer: Adam Gorgoni

Starring:  John Cazale, Steve Buscemi, Sam Rockwell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Shepard, Fred Roos, Francis Ford Coppola, Richard Dreyfuss, Brett Ratner, Sidney Lumet, Olympia Dukakis, Robyn Goodman, Israel Horovitz, Mark Haris, Gene Hackman, Carol Kane, Marvin Starkman, Steve Cazale, Robert De Niro, John Savage

More info: IMDb

Plot:  A portrait of the acting craft of John Cazale and a tour through the movies that defined a generation.

My rating:  7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah, twice is fine.

It's amazing that this guy was only in five movies and all of them were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.  This is a great and short (39 minutes) documentary on the man and his work with tons of interviews from some great actors and showbiz types who either knew, worked or admired him.  It's really neat hearing all of the anecdotes from people you admire.  The Oscilloscope DVD has a few extras including a commentary track with the director, an extended interview with Al Pacino (20 minutes) and Israel Horovitz (23 minutes), a 10 minute short film Cazale was in called THE AMERICAN WAY (1962), and another short 10 minute film called THE BOX (1969) where he was the cameraman and then there are trailers for 7 films released by Oscilloscope.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sorority Girl (1957)

Director: Roger Corman

Writers: Leo Lieberman, Ed Waters

Composer: Ronald Stein

Starring:  Susan Cabot, Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, June Kennedy, Barbara Cowan, Fay Baker, Jeane Wood, Joan Lora, Jay Sayer, Beach Dickerson, Shirley Cleveland, Donna Leary, Laurine Hastings

More info: IMDb

Tagline: TINA - Too pretty to be good!

Plot:  A poor-little-rich-girl feels alienated by her mother and enacts a string of revenges on her fellow pupils at a girls' boarding school. However, she is outcast when one of her stunts nearly drives a girl to suicide.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah.

You might be disappointed like me if you think this is going to be more exploitative like the title, poster and everything else suggests.  There is a little of that (especially in the spanking scene and subsequent cat fight...oh my) but it's mostly sorority drama.  That doesn't mean it's not entertaining, it is to a degree, but if you came for promises of college girls gettin' all nasty and such, you'll be let down.  I'm just trying to prepare you, that's all.  It's always great to see Dick Miller in anything and here's he's got a sizable and important role.  The acting across the board is pretty good and visually Corman keeps it from being dull.  I can't say I was bored at any time.  The hour running time plays in its favor.  Stretch this sumbitch out to 90 minutes and the boredom factor would definitely set in and ruin the picture.  If only more movies knew to be shorter for the integrity of the picture and the entertainment of its viewers.  

Monday, February 8, 2016

Family Business (1989)

Director: Sidney Lumet

Writer: Vincent Patrick

Composer: Cy Coleman

Starring: Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, Matthew Broderick, Rosanna DeSoto, Janet Carroll, Victoria Jackson, Bill McCutcheon, Deborah Rush, James Tolkan, Luis Guzman, BD Wong

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  There's nothing like a good robbery... to bring a family together.

Plot:  Jessie is an ageing career criminal who has been in more jails, fights, schemes, and lineups than just about anyone else. His son Vito, while currently on the straight and narrow, has had a fairly shady past and is indeed no stranger to illegal activity. They both have great hope for Adam, Vito's son and Jessie's grandson, who is bright, good-looking, and without a criminal past. So when Adam approaches Jessie with a scheme for a burglary he's shocked, but not necessarily disinterested....

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

I caught this in the theater in '89 and I walked out bewildered.  Part of it was Coleman's sometimes-out-of-place score (as if it legitimately was intended for a film in the 40s but there were some nice parts, too) and the casting.  I LOVE Sean Connery and he's great in this but it's a big stretch to try and convince me that he's Dustin Hoffman's father.  I'm glad he did the picture but he stands out more than he probably should.  The family lunch scene when Adam (Broderick)  brings his gal, Christine (Jackson), is fun and uncomfortable.  It shows how honest and intimidating Connery can be.  It's not a bad picture and there are some strong moments.  Fans of any of these three cats should check it out.  The Tri Star DVD sports an anamorphic widescreen print with 3 trailers (this film and DONNIE BRASCO (both fullscreen) and THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS (anamorphic widescreen) for the only extras.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Jesse Stone: Sea Change (2007)

Director:  Robert Harmon

Writers: Robert B. Parker, Ronni Kern

Composer: Jeff Beal

Starring: Tom Selleck, Kathy Baker, Kohl Sudduth, Rebecca Pidgeon, Sean Young, Mika Boorem, Stephen McHattie, William Sadler, James Gammon, Nigel Bennett, Saul Rubinek, Viola Davis, William Devane

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Sometimes it takes a flawed man to solve the perfect murder.

Plot:  When Police Chief Jesse Stone's relationship with his ex-wife worsens, he fears he will relapse into alcoholism. To get his mind off his problems, Jesse begins working on the unsolved murder of a bank teller shot during a robbery. Meanwhile, Stone's investigation of an alleged rape draws him into conflict with the town council, which hopes to preserve Paradise's reputation as an ideal seaside resort.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

All of these Jesse Stone picture feel about the same for me.  I like some of the actors that pop up like Saul Rubinek and William Devane (we could use more from these guys), Jeff Beal's score is moody and relaxing as is Selleck's performance.  They're comfortable movies that don't suck but aren't without flaws that would make them exceptional.  Someday I'll watch these for a second time and then I might be ready to pick out my favorites for a possible repeat viewing.

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Director: Richard Donner

Writers: Jeffrey Boam, Shane Black, Warren Murphy

Composers: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn

Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Joss Ackland, Derrick O'Connor, Patsy Kensit, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mark Rolston, Jenette Goldstein, Dean Norris

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The magic is back!

Plot:  Riggs and Murtaugh are on the trail of South African diplomats who are using their immunity to engage in criminal activities.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably.

While this is definitely a step down from the first film, it's still fun and it helps that Gibson and Glover have a great chemistry together.  Joe Pesci is a nice addition and he brings some funny moments.  The sequels get goofier as they go on but the action is always good and there's a great sense of fun, even if the writing goes downhill fast.  Now that I've re-watched the series and there's been a lot of years since I saw them last, there's enough distance between the viewings to see them in a lesser light.  They're not as good as I remembered and their weaknesses are more apparent.  Ugh.  Now I've got 3 & 4 to write about.  I've got the older Warner Bros. DVD box set (each movie is in a snap case) which has this film in non anamorphic widescreen (boo) the besides a bunch of text, the extras you get are the theatrical trailer (also non anamorphic widescreen) and a 4 minute piece on stunts and action. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Copycat (1995)

Director: Jon Amiel

Writers: Ann Biderman, David Madsen

Composer: Christopher Young

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney, William McNamara, Harry Connick Jr., J.E. Freeman, Will Patton, John Rothman, Shannon O'Hurley

More info: IMDb

Tagline: One man is copying the most notorious killers in history one at a time. Together, two women must stop him from killing again. Or they're next.

Plot:  An agoraphobic psychologist and a female detective must work together to take down a serial killer who copies serial killers from the past.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

When I saw this nearly twenty years ago I left the theater underwhelmed.  It's a gimmick serial killer movie with the conceit that Helen (Weaver) was home bound and she works with Monahan (Hunter) to catch a killer.  SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) was such a huge hit that it created a renaissance in the serial killer genre which meant a very few good films on the subject along with a lot of mediocre and shitty ones.  Rather than cook up a good story, many of them relied on a gimmick or an angle to set them apart.  This picture is OK at best.  Weaver feels like she's trying a bit too hard but then the film feels that way, too.  I get the impression that the filmmakers thought they had something special, and I guess at times they made some good moments, but it touches on so many genre cliches and drag the picture out to two plus hours that an hour or so in I was ready for this ride to stop.  The Warner Bros. DVD set (4 Film Favorites - Thriller with THE CRUSH, PACIFIC HEIGHTS and DIABOLIQUE) says this is widescreen but it's fullscreen.   The only extras you get include the trailer (fullscreen) and a commentary track with the director.  I saw PH and DIABOLIQUE when they first came out and I wasn't impressed with either so I'm just going to go ahead and get rid of this one at the next garage sale.  I waste enough time watching OK-at-best movies, I don't need to add more to the list.