Saturday, June 25, 2016

Get Bruce (1999)

Director: Andrew J. Kuehn

Composer: Michael Feinstein

Starring: Bruce Vilanch, Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Lily Tomlin, Raquel Welch, Michael Feinstein, Shirley MacLaine, Florence Henderson, Steven Seagal, Michael Douglas, Paul Reiser, Roseanne Barr, Carol Burnett, Billy Crystal, Marc Shaiman, Tim Curry, Traci Lords

More info: IMDb

Tagline: These stars know Hollywood's best-kept secret!

Plot: Affectionate tribute to Bruce Vilanch, who writes material for celebrities who make public appearances, from Oscar hosts and award recipients to Presidents. We meet his mom and see photos of his childhood; in Chicago, he writes for the Tribune and then heads West. Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, and Bette Midler talk with him and to the camera about working with Bruce, and we also watch Bruce help others prepare for Liz Taylor's 60th, Bill Clinton's 50th, and an AIDS awards banquet where the hirsute, rotund Vilanch lets his emotions show.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Hilarious.  If you've never heard of Bruce Vilanch, you've probably seen him.  He's hilarious and but he's also incredibly skilled at writing jokes for everyone and that's not easy.  You have to consider the person's personality, profession, abilities and then there's the event they need the funny for.  Of course this breathing documentary is all about him but we gear a great deal from his friends, the top performers in the entertainment world, and you know all of them.  He's loved by everyone.  One of the MANY highlights is Robin Williams spontaneously riffing about Jack Benny and Rochester being the stars of THE X-FILES.  He slayed me.  Bette Midler...I can't get enough of her.   You're going to get a little bit of Vilanch's history but the stories from his professional years, and thankfully it's most of the film, are fucking great.  I'd love to hang around with this guy.  I usually have at least one great laugh every single day.  I think he'd shatter the bell curve.  As of 4/19 it's on Netflix. 

Starship Troopers (1997)

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Writers: Edward Neumeier, Robert A. Heinlein

Composer: Basil Poledouris

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Clancy Brown, Seth Gilliam, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside, Rue McClanahan, Dean Norris, Amy Smart, Dale Dye, R. Lee Ermey

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Genocide doesn't compare to this.

Plot: Humans in a fascistic, militaristic future do battle with giant alien bugs in a fight for survival.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

When I first saw this in the late 90s I didn't like it one bit.  Now I'm a fan of Verhoeven but this just felt cheap.  Now I get it.  It's a throwback to 50s sci-fi flicks and it totally works.  I enjoyed it much more this time around.  I still don't think it's a great film but it is fun.  I like it but not enough to give the sequels a try.  It looks like it all went downhill after this one.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Negotiator (1998)

Director: F. Gary Gray

Writers: James DeMonaco, Kevin Fox

Composer: Graeme Revell

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse, Ron Rifkin, John Spencer, J.T. Walsh, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Paul Giamatti, Regina Taylor, Bruce Beatty, Michael Cudlitz, Carlos Gomez, Tim Kelleher, Dean Norris

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Chicago's two top negotiators must face each other. One of them is holding hostages. The other is demanding surrender. And everyone's holding their breath.

Plot: In a desperate attempt to prove his innocence, a skilled police negotiator accused of corruption and murder takes hostages in a government office to gain the time he needs to find the truth.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe, but I think twice is the magic number.

It's been ages since I saw this last and it wasn't as good this time but not by much.  It's a good crime thriller with a great cast doing a fine job, the tension is nicely handled and the pacing is good but it gets better and faster once the shit hits the taking hostages fan.  There are some clever little turns in the script but you might just fell them coming just before you turn the bend if you're thinking like Danny (Jackson).  The only real issue I have with the picture is that the story asks a little too much of your suspension of disbelief.  The last half hour (which feels like it lasts longer) has Danny & co. doing some far fetched things that you know there's no way these things would happen in real life.  I can take that to a point and this picture goes past that a couple of blocks.  It's still a fun film with a great cast doing a great job.  The Warner Bros. DVD gives you a nice anamorphic widescreen print with the only extras being trailers for four films (2 each with Jackson and Spacey).

Rocky (1976)

Director: John G. Avildsen

Writer: Sylvester Stallone

Composer: Bill Conti

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Thayer David, Joe Spinell, Jimmy Gambina, Bill Baldwin, Al Silvani, George Memmoli, Jodi Letizia, Stan Shaw, Frank Stallone, Lloyd Kaufman, Frank Stallone Jr., Joe Frazier, Michael Dorn

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You have a ringside seat for the bloodiest bicentennial in history!

Plot: Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight the heavy-weight champion, Apollo Creed, in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Man, I haven't seen this flick in probably 35 years and it's just a great as it ever was but then I couldn't remember much about it.  It's a shockingly simple story, something a lot of film makers and Hollywood have forgotten how to make.  If it were made today, there'd be a lot more crap going on to make it out to be something bigger than it needs to be like having the local mobster Rocky works for getting more involved in Rocky's affairs so he's battling on two fronts.  There's a lot to like but it's Stallone's script and performance that makes this as special as anything else.  Rocky is one of the most instantly likable characters out there.  He's so down to Earth and you always know what he's feeling.  You couldn't ask for a better underdog to root for.  His monologue to Adrian the night before the fight (a scene that Stallone had to fight to keep in, by the way) gets to the heart of the character and the movie.  And in that one moment he sets up the emotional one-two punch the ending delivers.  Hell, I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.  It's a wonderful piece of film making from every angle and it's not surprising that it made Stallone into one of the biggest movies stars of the 20th Century.  I've only ever seen the first two films and ROCKY BALBOA (2006) (which is as good as the first one).  A couple of years ago I picked up the MGM Blu-ray box set, The Undisputed Collection, that has all 6 films.  I was shocked to see that, while there are a good deal of extras, there's no commentary track which makes me wonder if either ever did one for a previous release.  I'm looking forward to making my way through this series, for better or worse.  At least I know it ends on a high note.  I can't wait another 35 years to see this one again. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Daughter of the Jungle (1982)

Original title: Incontro Nell'ultimo Paradiso

Director: Umberto Lenzi

Writers: Marina Garroni, Giovanni Lombardo Radice

Composers: Roberto Donati, Fiamma Maglione

Starring: Sabrina Siani, Rodolfo Bigotti, Renato Miracco, Mario Pedone, Wai Laung, Salvatore Borghese, Claudio Miraco

More info: IMDb

Plot: Ringo and Butch gets into trouble while on their vacation in South America. But well in the jungle they get captured by natives. Soon they realize that they ain't the only white people there, as the sexy jungle woman Luana and a gang of thieves are present.

My rating: 3/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

OMG this is awful.  It's Italian jungle trash.  There's very little to like.  Siani makes for a lovely she-Tarzan, and like Tarzan she gets topless.  Goody.  The opening is pretty funny with a seaside village, complete with straw huts.  The locals are riding mopeds in the sand, playing, watching a Western on their TV and living it up with modern conveniences until the busload of tourists arrive.  They scatter quickly to ditch the modern stuff and get their tribe gear together.  Then we get to meet Butch and Ringo, two of the most annoying humans ever filmed. No joke.  Nearly all of the English dub is atrocious.  I was hoping maybe it was just the dubbing but two things happened.  First, these two clowns and the bad guys are over acting their Italian asses off.  Then after it was over I found the entire movie on YouTube in Italian and the bits I briefly watched were almost as bad as what I saw.  This is supposed to be a comedy and I can see that but it's painfully unfunny and irritating.  If the acting weren't so bad I'd probably give it a couple more points.  The more I think about it, I should've gone lower but Lenzi can shoot a professional looking film and this does have the look that those who made it had the skills.  I'm not one to not finish a movie so it was hard for me to continue after fifteen minutes.  We'd all like to change something about ourselves.  At least the print I saw was in anamorphic widescreen but that's hardly a consolation. 

Heat (1995)

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Michael Mann

Composer: Elliot Goldenthal

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Kevin Gage, Hank Azaria, Susan Traylor, Kim Staunton, Danny Trejo, Henry Rollins, Tone Loc, Jeremy Piven, Xander Berkeley, Bud Cort

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  A Los Angeles Crime Saga

Plot: A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I wasn't a big fan of this when I saw it about twenty years ago but when I caught it again last night, I really dug it.  I now get why this is a big hit with a lot of folks.  It's a very good film.  Pacino goes overboard sometimes like Pacino can do but it's a well-paced, entertaining action crime flick that delivers the goods.  And what a cast!  There's familiar faces showing up all over the place.  The ending was satisfying but I would have also been satisfied if it had gone the other way.  Vincent (Pacino) has a really stressful, bad couple of days and it's a stretch to see so much bad shit happen to him (and I'm talking about the incident that takes him and his wife to the hospital).  One thing that I dug was that the big bank heist is only two thirds into the almost three hour movie so you've got another hour of aftermath to deal with.  It's a great flick.  The DVD I have doesn't have any extras except for the trailer but the Blu-ray is loaded with goodies.  Someday I'll see that one in a cheap dump bin and watch it again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Bucket of Blood (1995)

Director: Michael McDonald

Writers: Brendan Broderick, Charles B. Griffith, Michael McDonald

Composers: David Wurst, Eric Wurst

Starring: Anthony Michael Hall, Justine Bateman, Shadoe Stevens, Sam Lloyd, Jesse D. Goins, David Cross, Paul Bartel, Mink Stole, Will Ferrell

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Creations born of murder...

Plot: Walter Paisley, a busboy at a cappuccino bar called the Jabberjaw, is praised as a genius after he kills his landlady's cat and covers it in plaster. Pressured to produce more work, he goes after bigger subjects.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Oh, this is dreadful and that's got a lot to do with how much fun the original A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) is.  It's night and day.  Really.  The pacing is very 'low-budget' slow.  It's also visually unnecessarily dark.  This remake follows the same beats (hahahahaha, see what I did there?) as the original but it misses the boat on the execution of the humor.  I'd give it a lower score but there are some positives.  Shadoe Stevens plays the beatnik poet and he delivers his lines with gusto.  He's not as fun as his counterpart in the '59 film.  Something the original couldn't deliver that this one does is bewbs.  There's some great nudity but not much of it.  The bland score in this one is a contributing factor to dragging the film.  It's just no fun.  Even fans of the original who are curious are going to be let down.  You can watch the whole film on YouTube (above) if you really must watch it.