Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Best of the Best (1989)

Director: Robert Radler

Writers: Phillip Rhee, Paul Levine, Max Strom

Composer: Paul Gilman

Starring: Eric Roberts, Phillip Rhee, James Earl Jones, Sally Kirkland, Chris Penn, John Dye, David Agresta, Tom Everett, Louise Fletcher, John P. Ryan, Edan Gross, Simon Rhee, Master Hee Il Cho

More info: IMDb

Tagline: There's a kind of inner strength you never know you have...until it's ALL you have.

Plot: A team from the United States is going to compete against Korea in a Tae Kwon Do tournament. The team consists of fighters from all over the country--can they overcome their rivalry and work together to win?

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I figured this was going to be a by-the-numbers sports movie and it is.  The setup is standard and there are few trials for the team to overcome in their training before the big match.  Everything is about as you'd expect in every department.  Sometimes the fight choreography is great and sometimes (but rarely) it's poor but the editing of the fights is outstanding.  I'm pretty sure everyone could kick above their head except for Chris Penn.  I'm not sure how he made the team and it all happened in front of my eyes. The competition takes up the final half hour and it's pretty damn good.  That final fight ends pretty strongly, too, and it would have more emotional impact without the cheesy synthesizer score.  Ooh.   So there you go.  Skip to the final third and enjoy the hell out of yourself.  The out of print Sony DVD widescreen print is fine and the only extras are for THE KARATE KID (fullscreen), RADIO (anamorphic wide), and HELLBOY (anamorphic wide).

Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981)

Director: Graham Baker

Writer: Andrew birkin

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: Sam Neill, Rossano Brazzi, Don Gordon, Lisa Harrow, Barnaby Holm, Mason Adams, Robert Arden, Leueen Willoughby, Marc Boyle, Milos Kirek, Tommy Duggan, Louis Mahoney, Richard Oldfield, Tony Vogel, Hazel Court

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The power of evil is no longer in the hands of a child.

Plot: The now adult Antichrist plots to eliminate his future divine opponent while a cabal of monks plot to stop him.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Probably.

I really dig this franchise despite each film's flaw of pacing.  This third picture doesn't feel complete.  Maybe the writing was rushed.  The performances are fine although Sam Neill (in his debut starring in an American film) overdoes it when speaking to his mass of minions but he's otherwise great.  Jerry Goldsmith is back with a fantastic score and the best part of the film (as were his previous two scores).  If you ever listen to each of the three scores you'll notice a nice progression from one to the next as they get darker and bigger.  Outstanding work.  The kills in this are great and they even kill babies!  Even though you don't actually see the baby deaths, they're still very effective.  The one with the priest is badass.  Say, aren't these pooches adorable?

That's a great sequence, too.  There's a lot of good but the problems I have with it are that it's not grandiose enough (considering this is the third and final film in an epic good vs. evil trilogy) and the ending it incredibly weak.  Seriously weak.  It's anticlimactic almost in how small of a scale it's on.  SPOILERS FOR SATAN!!! YARRRRR!  I love that the kid dies and stays dead.  For a second there I thought he might be brought back to life.  Thank holy Satan for that one!  END OF SPOILERS!!! YARRRRR!!! The big orchestral and choral theme Goldsmith unleashes as Satan loses this round only adds to the pain of what could have been an exceptional finale.  I'm not saying there needed to be an effects-laden insane climax but what they delivered ends with a whimper.  I still dig the picture but I'll always think about what could have been.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Glimpse of Hell (2001)

Director: Mikael Salomon

Writers: Charles C. THompson II, David Freed

Composer: David C. Williams

Starring: James Caan, Robert Sean Leonard, Daniel Roebuck, Jamie harrold, John Doman, John Benjamin Hickey, Dashiell Eaves, Hugh Thompson, Alan C. Peterson, Bill MacDonald, Ken James, John Dunsworth

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Tragedy. Cover-up. Truth.

Plot: A Navy officer tries to set the record straight after the Navy blames a 1989 explosion aboard the USS Iowa on a homosexual affair between two sailors.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

The reviews I've skimmed point to a lot of inaccuracies.  I don't know jack about this incident or Naval procedures so all I've got is what the film tells me.  As a movie it does a pretty good job a laying out the build-up to the accident that killed 40 crewmen, the Navy's investigation and ending with the senate hearing.  The performances by the leads are good as is much about the picture but there's something missing that makes this compelling although I'm not sure the film makers were going for a film that rivets your butt to the seat.  Let's just say 'it is what it is'.  Easy cop out, right?  While it's not a home run, it does offer an interesting story and a nice ending by way of Caan's performance sitting in the hot seat during the hearing.  You get a glimpse into his struggle which gives the picture the finish it needed.  Fans of TRAILER PARK BOYS show will like seeing John Dunsworth even if he doesn't offer any shit-isms.  The 20th Century Fox DVD offers an anamorphic widescreen print and the only extras are non-anamorphic widescreen trailers for DON'T SAY A WORD, THE DEEP END, KISS OF THE DRAGON and a fullscreen trailer for SEXY BEAST.  Really?  Fucking fullscreen?  Geez!

Raiders of the Seven Seas (1953)

Director: Sidney Salkow

Writers: John O'Dea, Sidney Salkow

Composer: Paul Sawtell

Starring: John Payne, Donna Reed, Gerald Mohr, Lon Chaney Jr., Anthony Caruso, Henry Brandon, Skip Torgerson, Frank DeKova, William Tannen, Christopher Dark, Claire Du Brey, Howard Freeman, Anthony Warde

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A CORSAIR CAPTAIN...A CREW OF ESCAPED CONVICTS...Plundering for Loot and Revenge!

Plot: Barbarossa, a pirate, frees a group of Spanish prisoners and makes them his crew. On a raid, he takes as a prize a Spanish countess, Alida. He has fallen in love with her by the time he arranges for her ransom by the officer who was to marry her. Exposing her intended as a coward and a liar, he goes to ask for her hand but she has escaped, and Barbarossa thinks she is the one who killed his aide, Peg-Leg.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I honestly don't get my hopes up for the off-the-beaten-path, lower budget pirate flicks of the 50s and 60s.  The genre's heyday was the 30s and 40s and it seemed that after the wind left their sails that the majority of them were relegated to Saturday matinee kiddie fare...which is fine if you're a kid or you're looking for something to fill the mindless escapism.  It's not really as bad as all that but it's close.  RAIDERS has an OK story with less than OK dialogue, OK performances and the low budget effects like ship models and whatnot. 

Payne does an admirable job as Barbarossa (AKA Red Beard, although his beard is nothing more than a really short goatee) but it's clear by him and a few others that getting a better script with better actors would've helped immensely.  It's funny but I never really thought about Donna Reed (here as Alida) in movies prior to her TV show in the late fifties even though I'd seen her in some.  I'm on record as not really liking Lon Chaney Jr.'s work but I thought he served this picture well as the one-legged friend to Barbarossa, Peg Leg. Including a young boy in the cast (Skip Torgerson as Datu) indicates (and justifies) that this is aimed at that young boy, Saturday crowd mentioned earlier.  Had I seen this sixty years ago and as a boy his age I would have eaten this up and come back for seconds.  Fans of swashbuckling swordplay will be disappointed as there's only a little bit and the choreography is sometimes clumsy.  Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone these cats are not.

As an adult who has seen a large number of these pirate pictures, many of which are the best the genre has to offer, I look forward to each and every one of these but I realize that I've probably seen the best and everything else is just leftover cake from the party last week.  Still, I enjoyed it despite it's limitations in the budget and the production.  No one knew they were aspiring to make a great film but they easily succeeded in making an entertaining one nonetheless.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Evil Bong (2006)

Director: Charles Band

Writer: Domonic Muir

Composers: District 78, Ker'in Hayden

Starring: David Weidoff, John Patrick Jordan, Mitch Eakins, Brian Lloyd, Robin Sydney, Kristyn Green, Tommy Chong, Michelle Mais, Jacob Witkin, Tim Thomerson, Bill Moseley

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Dude, it's one SCARY trip!

Plot: Straight-laced nerd Alistair moves into a college dorm with hardcore marijuana users Brett, Larnell, and Bachman. Larnell orders an old giant bong that proves to have strange magical powers. When smoked said bong sends a person to a bizarre drugged-out alternate realm from which there is no easy escape.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

One thing that surprised me, considering this is from the low budget, direct-to-video company Full Moon (whose stuff from the 80s and 90s I usually dig), is the opening credits song.  It's pretty catchy and fun.  Then the story starts proper and it goes into familiar setting of a nerd moving in with a stoner and a jock, who's also a stoner.  When one of the guy's foul mouthed grandfather shows up and brings the funny it perks up a bit. The parts in between are OK.  It's not horrible nor is it all that good.  The scenes in the strip club provide the nudity you're gonna want.  Besides grandpa, the best reason to watch it is for Tommy Chong who shows up near the end for a small but important role.  He's great and so is a cameo by Full Moon regular Tim Thomerson as Jack Deth.  I love that guy.  Horror fans will notice Bill Moseley at the strip club.  You know the special effects budget is between $35 and $40 when the talking bong's mouth doesn't move when she speaks.  Instead she communicates telepathically.  How convenient.  Long gone, I guess, are the days when the studio that puppets built would take the time and money to throw in some stop motion animation.  But I guess if you're going to watch a movie called EVIL BONG then that's not going to matter.  The DVD has an anamorphic widescreen print with a two extras.  The first is a 19-minute short called Evil Bong: Behind the Scenes...I wonder what that's about.  The other extra, Roadshow 2005 featurette, is a half hour compilation of live stage storytelling shows with Charles Band (ala what Kevin Smith is now doing with audiences), clips from Full Moon's catalog, and clips from The Tonight Show with Leno when Charles Band's son, Alex, was there with his band.  William Shatner shows up for an anecdote with Charles and Charles talks a lot about the film making process and there are some other goodies that fans of this studio are going to love.  It's a lot of fun and a lot more entertaining than the film.  I'd recommend getting the disc just for that.  Seriously.

Funeral in Berlin (1966)

Director: Guy Hamilton

Writers: Len Deighton, Evan Jones

Composer: Konrad Eifers

Starring: Michael Caine, Paul Hubschmid, Oskar Homolka, Eva Renzi, Guy Doleman, Hugh Burden, Heinz Schubert, Wolfgang Volz, Thomas Holtzmann, Gunter Meisner, Herbert Fux, Rainer Brant, Rachel Gurney, John Abineri, David Glover

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  It was going to be a lovely funeral. Harry Palmer just hoped it wouldn't be his...

Plot: A British agent is sent to Berlin to receive a Communist defector, but the true situation turns out to be rather more complicated.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes!!!

Here's a sequel that tops the previous film, THE IPCRESS FILE (1965).  The intricately layered story is compelling and fun.  There are a couple of moments of levity that I could have done without, like his sexual quips with the office secretary ALA Bond, but it's early on and stuff like that doesn't permeate the picture.  Thankfully it's an engrossing and serious alternative to the James Bond series that was currently at its zenith in spy-mania.  FUNERAL is essentially two short films woven together as one.  It feels a little weird finding what feels like the main story ending with the other taking over but it works.  While I miss having John Barry back to score this one, I really dug what Konrad Eifers brought to the table.  His music brings a little of the exoticism of some of the early Bond scores and makes it seem more personal and dangerous without forgetting it's a movie and we should enjoy it.  Caine, as always, is great and the supporting cast is marvelous as well.  Bond producer Harry Saltzman brought some of his Bond alumni with him like the last picture.  Production designer Ken Adam is back and he brought in GOLDFINGER (1964) director Guy Hamilton to helm it.  It's a top-notch 60s spy thriller that's a great compliment to the Bond series while doing its own thing.  It's been a few years since I last saw it but it seems to be growing on me with age.  I watched a friend's DVD and I immediately went to Amazon to buy it but the $22 (plus tax) price keeps me from pulling the trigger.  It's a Warner Bros. Archive Collection release so at best it might only have a trailer for an extra.  That's too steep to pay for so little.  Hopefully the price will drop by the time I'm ready to see it again/  In the meantime it might even come out on Blu-ray but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Leprechaun (1993)

Director: Mark Jones

Writer: Mark Jones

Composers: Kevin Kiner, Robert J. Walsh

Starring: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston, Ken Olandt, Mark Holton, Robert Hy Gorman, Shay Duffin, John Sanderford, John Voldslad, Pamela Mant, William Newman, David Permenter, Raymond C. Turner, Heather Kennedy, Tim Garrick

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Your luck just ran out

Plot: An evil, sadistic Leprechaun goes on a killing rampage in search of his beloved pot of gold.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

Ugh.  I picked up the 5-movie box set at a yard sale for less than 5 bucks and now I want my money and time back.  It's obnoxious and largely unfunny and there's barely any gore.  Blood on someone's face is hardly gory.  It's more the language than violence that makes this rated R.  Is that Warwick Davis' voice?  It feels like it's someone else.  It's Jennifer Aniston's feature film debut if that's worth anything to you.  It is kind of neat seeing her right before she made the big time with FRIENDS.  And then there's Mark Holton (as the doofus, Ozzie), the guy who stole Pee Wee's bike in PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (1985). Some of the acting is pretty bad but overall it's OK.  The music is credited with two composers and when you see it you can tell.  Half the score sounds like a typical synth horror score playing it cute and the other half sounds like it's for a Spielberg family picture.  The latter I like, the former was agonizing.  I guess I just didn't care for the wise-cracking leprechaun that felt like a pint-sized Freddy Kruger. It wasn't funny or scary (not that horror movies can scare me anymore) and I was ready for it to end a half hour in.  I was hoping I'd enjoy it enough to want to see two of the sequels (the ones in the hood and in space) but I'm turned off least for now.  I reckon I'll make a few bucks off the set on ebay.  That should ease the pain a little.