Friday, August 19, 2016

Highwaymen (2004)

Director: Robert Harmon

Writers: Craig Mitchell, Hans Bauer

Composer: Mark Isham

Starring: Jim Caviezel, Rhona Mitra, Frankie Faison, Colm Feore, Gordon Currie, Andrea Roth, Noam Jenkins

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Terror hits the road

Plot: Rennie Cray (Caviezel) embarks on a bloodthirsty rampage to avenge the death of his wife who was struck down by a serial killer - a man who hunts and kills women using his '72 El Dorado.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Gee whiz.  What a letdown.  There's a good movie to be made from this really neat and simple premise but the one I just watched is rather dull.  A lot of the car stunts are really great.  That's the best part.  Caviezel is bland and a tad too dramatic.  Mitra is fine I suppose.  It's always great to see Frankie (Barney from the Hannibal Lector films) Faison in anything.  It's been ages since he showed up in anything I've watched.  The story has a great idea of having a serial killer using his car as his weapon but some of the wind gets knocked out of it when you see that the killer is all cyborg'd out like he's still in the hospital.

What's worse is that he's in a wheelchair.  Rennie (Caviezel) gives us all of the details, by way of telling Molly (Mitra), halfway into the picture.  When he starts talking of how he put Fargo (Feore) in the hospital and Fargo is released months later but covered in metal traction shit and gets back on the road to kill, I was laughing.  But you're not supposed to be laughing and his description wasn't enough to prepare me for when I saw Fargo all done up for the first time minutes before the movie ends.  This could have been and should have been so much better.  Chalk it up to another missed opportunity.  This came three years before Tarantino's much better DEATH PROOF (2007).  The New Line DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with the only extras being the trailer for this film (also anamorphic widescreen) and anamorphic widescreen trailers for THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (remake) and FREQUENCY.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

True Lies (1994)

Director: James Cameron

Writers: Claude Zidi, Simon Michael, Didier Kaminka, James Cameron

Composer: Brad Fiedel

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Art Malik, Eliza Dushku, Grant Heslov, Charton Heston, Marshall Manesh

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When he said I do, he never said what he did.

Plot: A fearless, globe-trotting, terrorist-battling secret agent has his life turned upside down when he discovers his wife might be having an affair with a used car salesman.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

It's been ages since I last saw this and I'd forgotten how brilliantly awesome and fun this picture is.  I think you'll find in Writing a Screenplay 101 that you only include scenes that further the story.  If it doesn't move the plot then it needs to go.  The first half hour has our heroes going after the bad guys.  Suddenly all of that takes a backseat to focusing on Harry's (Schwarzenegger) suspicion that his wife, Helen (Curtis), is cheating on him and that's where we spend the next third of the movie without hardly a word spoken about the big terrorist threat.  Then it's back to the business at hand as we finish the picture.  Technically it sounds all wrong but Cameron & Co. make it one hell of a fun ride which makes that diversion insignificant.  The action is fantastic (blowing up the bridge was amazing), the humor is hilarious (Tom Arnold deserves a lot of credit for what he brought to the film) and the actors are having a blast.  Curtis is as sexy as she is funny and everybody wins.  One thing I noticed this time was how nice it was not to get the usual Schwarzenegger quips after he offs somebody.  The silence was sweet.  This really is a super fun ride.  Unfortunately there's no friggin' Blu-ray.  The 20th Century Fox DVD has the film in non-anamorphic widescreen which is unacceptable.  Oh, and the only extra is the trailer.  Very weak considering how good and popular this movie is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Siren of Bagdad (1953)

Director: Richard Quine

Writer: Robert E. Kent

Composer: John Leipold

Starring: Paul Henreid, Patricia Medina, Hans Conried, Charles Lung, Laurette Luez, Anne Dore, George Keymas, Michael Fox, Karl 'Killer' Davis, Carl Milletaire

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Very, Very Gay! When the Sultan's Away, and the Royal Magician Starts to the Harem!

Plot:  Kazah the Great (Henreid), a magician heads a troupe of girls and acrobats traveling in Arabia. The girls are stolen by Sultan El Malid (Lung), and Kazak joins forces with Zendi (Medina), the daughter of the rightful sultan that was deposed by Malidi to get the girls back and rid Bagdad of the evil Malid.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Well this was a lot more fun that I expected.  I've never seen Paul Henreid in a comedy and boy is he having fun in this one!  The film works partly because the actors are having a blast.  What's more is you've got a lot of jokes that land.  I laughed more than I thought I would, as in laughed out loud.  As is standard for even a big studio B picture, the costumes and set design are colorful and fun.  After seeing this flick I can see why there has been civil unrest in the Middle East for thousands of years...the chicks are smokin'!!!

The gal in the red in the last picture isn't even credited.  Kazah (Henreid) puts Ben Ali (Conried) into the magic box and transforms him into this hottie but she still has Ben Ali's voice.  The IMDb trivia says her name is Vivian Mason.  She's fucking hilarious.  She jumps into the middle of the dancers and tries her best to fit in but she's as clumsy as Ben Ali would be if he were still in male form.  She's brilliant in the few minutes she's on screen.  A short 73 minutes is all you get with this one and that's all you need.  I wish more movies knew when to quit when they should.  I recorded this off of TCM many years ago and finally got around to it.  This is one of those pictures that would be great on a rainy, quiet afternoon or back in '53 with a double feature, Warner Bros. cartoon, a Three Stooges short and a chapter from the latest serial (even though serials were a dying breed at this point).

Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

Director: Sam Liu

Writers: Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Brian Azzarello

Composers: Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion, Lolita Ritmanis

Starring: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Ray Wise, John DiMaggio, Robin Atkin Downes, Brian George, JP Karliak

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  The madness begins.

Plot:  As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

Talk about a disappointment.  While I never read the graphic novel from (I think) the 80s, I'd heard a lot about it.  It sounded like a really dark and gritty tale.  So when I heard months ago that this was being brought to the screen with Conroy and Hamill back in their iconic roles AND that it was going to be rated R, I was properly excited.  Then I saw it.  It's OK.  When it came to delivering the grisly goods they only kind of went there.  For an R-rated picture there's no bad language, the violence is minimal and there's no nudity.  I guess it's only R for the adult themes...and to boost sales by slyly implying that it's going to earn it's adult rating.  Bullshit, I says.  I'd have to read the graphic novel to know where the film makers departed and expanded but the film they made feels like an extended episode for a late-night Batman animated series.  As it is, Batgirl has sex with Batman for the first, and presumably, the only time (which is fine but I'm not savvy on their history leading up to this point so I just have to assume that she's been hot for him for a long time and that he's totally OK nailin' a child or a very, very young woman) and then she spends the rest of the picture (until she's taken out of it) going through teen romance issues.  The Joker is the best part.  Hamill is outstanding in the role (as if he wouldn't be, right?) and he's the best part.  There was some great imagery but the overall film animation isn't nearly as smooth as you would expect for a movie, even though it was a direct-to-DVD film.  It looked like a rushed job you'd get from a TV series.  Maybe that's what they were going for.  I would have like more time spent on this project before making it this far and that's how the film felt, unfinished and needing more time and care to make into something ballsy, worthwhile and iconic.  The ONLY extra on the Warner Bros. DVD is a sneak preview of a new Batman video game!  Really, that's it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Big Country (1958)

Director: William Wyler

Writers: James R. Webb, Sy Bartlett, Robert Wilder, Jessamyn West, Donald Hamilton

Composer: Jerome Moross

Starring: Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Charles Bickford, Alfonso Bedoya, Chuck Connors, Chuck Hayward, Buff Brady

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Big they fought! Big they loved! Big their story!

Plot: A New Englander arrives in the Old West, where he becomes embroiled in a feud between two families over a valuable patch of land.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I just watched this for the very first time.  I didn't know anything about it.  It looked like it might have a sugary love story mixed in with some pretty scenery.  The gorgeous location shooting is abundant but the lovey stuff is very minimal, VERY minimal.  It's like the genre grew up a little and took the male/female relationship (within a Western) to the next level.  So often a romance in a film hurts it or at least too much of one can bring a film down.  Not this picture.  The performances are very good (Burl Ives OWNS it in every scene he's in.  His entrance at the big party is top drawer stuff.  In every scene he tells more about himself that reveals a multi-layered character and not some pissed off rancher who wants revenge.  He's fantastic.  Jerome Moross's score is big, lush and a perfect compliment to the great outdoors on display.  Jim (Peck) does some unexpected things that got me to giving up what I think he's going to do next and just roll with it.  Early on you might have a good idea how the rest of the near-3-hour picture is going to play out but you'd only be partially correct.  The ending is outstanding and the absence of dialogue adds to its effectiveness.  Speaking of absence, the fist fight between Jim and Steve (Heston) goes on for a couple of minutes with no music and when the music does come in, it's just a quiet instrument or two.  It was very effective and I was impressed the film makers played it out like that.  Usually you'd get a busy, violent music cue.  As for being two hours and forty-five minutes long, it doesn't feel like it.  Looking back, there isn't a wasted scene in the film.  Everything that's there needs to be there.  Great flick.  The MGM DVD features the film in anamorphic widescreen with only the theatrical trailer (non-anamorphic widescreen) for an extra.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bombardier (1943)

Director: Richard Wallace

Writers: John Twist, Martin Rackin

Composer: Roy Webb

Starring: Pat O'Brien, Randolph Scott, Anne Shirley, Eddie Albert, Robert Ryan, Barton MacLane, Leonard Strong, Richard Martin

More info: IMDb

Tagline: See the bombing of Tokyo before your very eyes!

Plot:  Training of bombardiers in semi-documentary style, with personal stories and a battle climax.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I imagine that war propaganda pictures play a lot better during wartime (especially during the current war that's depicted on the screen).  This is one of those 'fire the boys up to take on the Japs and Jerrys' pictures that doesn't hide its patriotism.  I'm all about a gung-ho flick when it's good but they're usually too over the top for my taste.  Despite the thick and cheesy morale boosting, this one goes places I didn't expect.  Tom (played by Eddie Albert) goes through quite the character arc that has a shocking ending (REALLY cool and horrifying).  The ending is actually pretty damn awesome and heroic.  That was neat, too.  The love interests do serve a valuable purpose (for a change) in the film with one of them paying off in spades in the final moment of the picture.   Am I the only one who thinks Pat O'Brien's acting is rather wooden?  He certainly isn't an actor that moves much but he does better in roles like the priest in ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938).  In everything else I've seen him in he's just kind of there, adequate but with low energy and low charisma.  This flick is no different.  He does OK but he's not exactly knocking it out of the park.  A lot of this movie is by the numbers and it does hit the beats needed to get the flags waving and while it's got some neat diversions, it's not going to make you yearn to be a bombardier. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

My Name Is Nobody (1973)

Original title: Il Mio Nome e Nessuno

Director: Tonino Valerii

Writers: Sergio Leone, Fulvio Morsella, Ernesto Gastaldi

Composer: Ennio Morricone

Starring: Terence Hill, Henry Fonda, Jean Martin, R.G. Armstron, Karl Braun, Leo Gordon, Steve Kanaly, Geoffrey Lewis, Mario Brega

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Nobody, but "Nobody," knows the trouble he's in!

Plot: A young, easygoing gunman (Hill) worships and competes with an old gunfighter (Fonda) who only wants to retire.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Great flick.  I haven't seen it in probably twenty years.  The 70s saw the decline in the Western genre and the Spaghetti Western went along with it, puttering out by the end of the decade.  This is one of the better films of the Euro Westerns of that period.  It's funny (the slap scene in the bar is classic), genuine and smart.  The ending is just great.  The cast is fun and you couldn't ask for a better pairing of the jovial Hill and the 'ready to retire' Fonda.  Nobody (Hill) knows every move to make and Jack (Fonda) stands back and lets him with wonderment.  The location shooting is great, with most of the film shot in the USA, which was unusual for an Italian Western (they usually filmed in and around Almeria, Spain).  Ennio Morricone's score is fantastic but I cringe with his hokey orchestration when the Wagner theme plays.  It's just a super fun film all the way around.  With some familiar faces like R.G. Armstrong and Geoffrey Lewis in it, it's a shame they didn't dub their own voices.  Fonda is the only actor to do so in English.  The RLJ Blu-ray looks good but it shows enough wear to think that hopefully there'll be a restoration somewhere down the road.  It still looks great but you can tell the print isn't what it could be.  Unfortunately there isn't a single extra on the disc.  You'd think a Blu touting the "40th Anniversary Edition" would have some bonus features.  You can get it for ten bucks.  Extras or not, it's worth it.