Friday, January 30, 2015

Hitler's Children (2011)

Director: Chanoch Zeevi

Composer: Ophir Leibovitch

Starring: Bettina Goring, Katrin Himmler, Monika Goth, Rainer Hoss, Eldad Beck, Niklas Frank, Yael Bedarshi, Adi Piper, Samuel West

More info: IMDB

Plot: A look into the lives of the descendants of the top Nazi officials who worked under Hitler's command.

My rating: 8.5/10

I don't mean to sound like an advertisement for Netflix streaming but I love this service.  I get to discover all kinds of wonderful films that I normally might not find.  This is one of them.  It's absolutely fascinating on so many levels.  One thing that couldn't escape me, even after the picture had long finished, was how it must feel to be the offspring or close relative to someone who did such horrible things.  Think about that for a moment.  You're a small child.  Your father runs a huge death camp but all you knew of your time there was a beautiful home and garden (on the camp grounds), a privileged lifestyle and a loving family, not ever knowing what was going on just a few feet away.  Then suddenly the war ends and your father is tried, convicted and sentenced to death.  And now you spend the rest of your days without a father, not knowing until years later what the truth was.  All you knew of him was he was a good and loving father and husband.  Wow.  That's got to be a major kick in the balls. And then you spend the rest of your life trying to deal with that.  And to maker matters worse, people look at you with hate and contempt even though you had nothing to do with your father's sins.  That's just one scenario and there are several people in this documentary that have similar and varying stories.  One man has spent his entire life trying to find anything positive about his father.  Think about that one.  It's leisurely paced with a undercurrent of a subdued score.  The moment that will always stick with me is when one of the subjects visits the concentration camp his father ran.  A group was visiting at that time which included the son of a man who was murdered in that camp.  These two share a moment that is so powerful and genuine that no fictional film could come close to achieving.  Wow.  I'm tempted to buy the DVD but I can't find out if it has any extras.  I'd buy it now if it does.  I'll probably wait until I'm ready to see it again and get it (if it's no longer on Netflix, that is). 

Shooters (2002)

Directors: Glenn Durfort, Colin Teague

Writers: Louis Dempsey, Andrew Howard, Gary Young

Composer: Kemal Ultanur

Starring: Adrian Dunbar, Andrew Howard, Louis Dempsey, Gerard Butler, Jason Hughes, Matthew Rhys, Ioan Gruffudd, Jamie Sweeney, Melanie Lynskey, Emma Fielding, David Kennedy, Joe Swash, Ranjit Krishnamma, Nitin Ganatra, Walter Roberts

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In the tradition of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Plot: Gilly, fresh out of prison, and J, a hustler with a major drug problem, just can't shake their criminal ways.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Jeez, here's a grim picture.  While I didn't care for any of the characters (but I kept wondering if I was supposed to), it held my interest but only slightly.  Without giving it too much thought as to why I'm going to say it was the story that was lacking.  The performances were quite good for what the film required but none of the characters gave me a reason to like them or invest in them enough to get sucked into the story so that things mattered.  I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because the ending was fantastic.  It's bleak as shit and I really dug it.  Fans of British crime will dig it the most. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978)

Director: Leslie H. Martinson

Writers: Sherwood Schwartz, Elroy Schwartz, Al Schwartz, David P. Harmon

Composer: Gerald Fried

Starring: Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Judith Baldwin, russell Johnson, Dawn Wells, Vincent Schiavelli, Art LaFleur, Norman Bartold

More info: IMDb

Plot: When a decaying Russian satellite crashes on the island, the Professor uses a key component for a barometer. With that device, he learns that a massive wave is going to swamp the island. In desperation, the castaways lash their huts together into one structure in order to have any chance to ride the disaster out. The wave strikes the island and the hut is swept out to sea. Once there, Gilligan accidents starts a fire trying to cook a meal and nearly burns the floating hut down. Occupied with stopping the fire, the gang fails to notice that the smoke caught the attention of a naval helicopter who summoned a ship to rescue the castaways. In triumph, they return to Hawaii, only to learn that things have changed over the years and they will have trouble fitting in. To further complicate matters, two Russian spies are after that the key component that Gilligan now wears as necklace.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

As a kid in the 70s I loved this show.  A few years ago I watched the pilot, the first time I'd seen an episode as an adult, and it wasn't that bad.  It fared better than I'd hoped.  It's still a dumb show but there's something about it that tickles me.  That's kind of how I felt about seeing this for the first time in nearly 40 years.  Yeah, it's bad but it's also got some incredibly funny, laugh out loud moments and that really surprised me.  The business with the two spies (Schiavelli and the other guy) are cringe-inducing with the over the top broad comedy.  But what was funny were the individual moments we got with each of the main characters.  The Professor turning down sex with his hot students was priceless.  He's clearly a man of science. The same goes with The Howells, Ginger and so on.  The film knows exactly what it is and it gladly pokes fun of itself and the show that spawned it.  I can't recommend this to anyone who wasn't a fan of the 60s TV show but I can (with reservation) for those who have.  Oh, and the one thing that was REALLY strange was not having a laugh track.  That was bizarre.  Since this is in the public domain you'll be able to see it in any number of places for free online.

Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

Director: Tony Scott

Writers: Eddie Murphy, Robert D. Wachs, Larry Ferguson, Warren Skaaren, David Giler, Dennis Klein

Composer: Harold Faltermeyer

Starring: Eddie Murphey, Judge Reinhold, Jurgen Prochnow, Ronny Cox, John Ashton, Brigitte Nielsen, Allen Garfield, Dean Stockwell, Paul Reiser, Gilbert R. Hill, Paul Guilfoyle, Gilbert Gottfried, Frank Pesce, Chris Rock, Robert Pastorelli, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Heat's Back On!

Plot: Axel Foley returns to Beverly Hills to help Taggart and Rosewood investigate Chief Bogamil's near-fatal shooting and the series of "alphabet crimes" associated with it.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Sure, in another 20 years or so.

While it's not as good as the first film but it's got enough 80s fun to make it worth a watch.  Murphy is charismatic as hell and he's the biggest reason this picture is so likable.  Seeing Los Angeles they way they depict it in this flick is great.  It make you wish you had the dough to live out there and make a go at it.  The supporting cast is fun, too, as is the score.  Unfortunately the story feels like a rehash and a weak excuse to bring all of this greatness back together for another film.  But it's still a fun watch.  I hadn't seen this one since it came out and I'd forgotten every single thing about it.  I never did see the third one but it looks like it's got an astounding number of great character actors in it and it's directed by John Landis.  Even without that I'll probably see it eventually.  The Paramount DVD sports an anamorphic widescreen print and a few extras in the way of cast and crew interviews (22 minutes), the original behind the scenes featurette (7 minutes), a deleted scene (3 minutes), "Shakedown" music featurette (5 minutes) and the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Walk in the Woods (2015)

Director: Ken Kwapis

Writers: Bil Bryson, Michael Arndt, Rick Kerb

Composer: ???

Starring: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Nick Offerman, Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Kristen Schaal

More info: IMDb

Plot: When an aging travel writer sets out to hike the 2,100-mile-long Appalachian Trail with a long-estranged high school buddy, the duo learn that some roads are better left untraveled.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

This was the first film of day 2 at Sundance for me this year and it was also the film's world premiere.  Essentially there are three main characters in the picture, Bryson (Redford), Katz (Nolte) and the Appalachian Mountains and all three have moments of greatness except for the mountains which never fails to impress.  Nolte is hilarious.  It's been a while since I saw one of his more recent pictures (except for GANGSTER SQUAD (2012)) and he's looking and sounding rough; but that helps in this film.  Redford and Thompson mostly do a fine job but they each have moments when they display those family film expressions that look like they're acting more outward than inward.  It's hard to explain without showing clips or even images but you'll know what I'm talking about when you see it.  It might sound like a silly thing to point out but it happened enough to take me out of the picture for a moment or two.  Both of these actors otherwise do very well.  The story plays out nicely but it felt conflicted with its mix of drama and humor.  There are times it works well but then you get some really silly moments like when they stand up in their tents to frighten the bears.  Since this is based on actual events I will give them the benefit of the doubt that this scene is very similar to how it really happened but it's the way it's shot that feels like it's crossing a genre line rather than present it as something that, if it happened to you, it would be far too frightening at the moment but it would be something you could laugh about ten minutes after you're completely safe and you laugh to subside the adrenaline rush.  Oh, and there's the often used trope of shitty communication.  Katz has a small bottle of unopened booze in his pack and he'd told Bryson that he quit drinking.  After weeks on the trail, Bryson discovers the bottle and confronts Katz with it, condemning him yet Katz says nothing until much later (not in the film but in what it would be in real time).  It's only done that way to drum up some drama but it's phony and it's one more device that takes away from the potency of the film.  Some folks I talked to bitched about the ending.  I didn't care for it at first but it grew on me the more I thought about it.  It might've been handled a little better so as not to seem like a WTF, why did you do that kind of moment.  Overall, if you see this you'll want to see it on the biggest screen possible to take advantage of the absolutely gorgeous scenery.

A Mighty Wind (2003)

Director: Christopher Guest

Writers: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy

Composer:  song score mostly by Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean

Starring: Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Bob Balaban, Paul Dooley, Jim Ortlieb, Paul Benedict, Floyd Van Buskirk, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, Christopher Moynihan, Jim Piddock, Don Lake, Deborah Theaker, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr., Larry Miller, Jennifer Coolidge

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Back together for the first time, again.

Plot: Mockumentary captures the reunion of 1960s folk trio the Folksmen as they prepare for a show at The Town Hall to memorialize a recently deceased concert promoter.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I absolutely adore Guest & pals' earlier film, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN (1996).  It's fucking brilliant.  That means that I'm on board with everything else they do.  I've seen them all a few times but I always go back to GUFFMAN.  A MIGHTY WIND is VERY funny.  Not only is it a great premise and story but the gags are all over the place and it's got a great original soundtrack.  These people are so talented it's scary.  The songs are fantastic.  Yeah, they sound like they came from the eras they're depicting but they're also very well-written songs.  "A Kiss at the End of teh Rainbow", as sung by Levy & O'Hara, is a beautifully touching song that plays an integral part in the heart of the film.  When we reach the climax, we're not sure how the song is going to go down and it makes for a very sweet and suspenseful moment.  My only real criticism of the picture is Levy's performance.  He takes the goofy too far.  I would have preferred that he toned it down a bit and not play it like a SCTV/SNL character.  Grounding that character more would have made this picture that much more special.  He does have his moments of funny but my eyes roll whenever he takes it too far.  The Waner Bros. DVD has a few extras with a commentary, 15 additional scenes with optional commentary, 4 "vintage" TV appearances by the fake groups The Folksmen and Mitch & Mickey (with optional commentary), the PBN TV broadcast of the concert (with optional commentary), the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen) and a soundtrack spot. 

Gamer (2009)

Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Writers: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Composers: Robb Williamson, Geoff Zanelli

Starring: Gerard Butler, Amber Valletta, Michael C. Hall, Kyra Sedgwick, Logan Lerman, Alison Lohman, Terry Crews, Ramsey Moore, Ludacris, Aaron Yoo, Jonathan Chase, Dan Callahan, Brighid Fleming, Zoe Bell, John Leguizamo

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In the near future, you don't live to play... you'll play to live.

Plot: In a future mind-controlling game, death row convicts are forced to battle in a 'doom'-type environment. Convict Kable, controlled by Simon, a skilled teenage gamer, must survive 30 sessions in order to be set free. Or won't he?

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Alright, judging from the trailer I knew this was an all out action movie but what I didn't expect was that it would have a pretty good just lacked going in the right direction (for me, that is).  I liked the concept.  I would have preferred they went more with the heady sci-fi angle instead of making this a straight action picture.  I was frequently uninterested and I never cared about the central character, Kable.  The performances were fine (Hall was hilarious and it was nice seeing him as someone other than Dexter and that "I've Got You Under My Skin" dance routine was outrageously fun) and the action was pretty good.  I don't know, I guess I kept thinking while I was watching it that it should have been more but I suppose that's not the filmmaker's fault.  It's a good looking film that I'm sure a lot of people out there really dig.  I'm just not one of them.  The Lionsgate DVD has a few extras including an audio commentary with the writers/directors and some of the cast, two making of featurettes that total around 45 minutes, the anamorphic widescreen trailer plus a few trailers for several other Lionsgate films.