Sunday, July 31, 2011

Van Nuys Blvd. (1979)

Director: William Sachs

Starring: Bill Adler, Cynthia Wood, Dennis Bowen, Melissa Phrophet, David Hayward

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Greatest Cruisin' in the Land Takes Place on the Street -- Where it all Began...

Plot: A small-town kid hears about the wild nights of cruising the boulevard in Van Nuys, California. He drives out there to check it out, and gets involved with drag racers, topless dancers and bikers.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

#9 on 42nd Street Forever Vol. 2: The Deuce (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

DRINKING GAME: Take a drink every time the singer of the title song yells, "Van Nuys", and you'll be hammered inside of 15 seconds.

Or when you get stupid, retarded shit like this...

VAN NUYS BLVD. is your typical, stupid comedy that was so prevalent in the 70s and 80s. No, fuck that, stupid comedies didn't stop there. Hollywood kept on going. The songs are lame, the humor is lame and broad...say, speaking of broad...there's a lot of great 70s nudity! That's really the only reason anyone would want to watch this.

This is how I'm getting my food delivered the next time I go to Sonic Burger.

VNB isn't a complete waste of time. If you like the jokes telegraphed minutes ahead of the punchline, guys who like to race vans and the women who like them, stupid cops, guys with 70s porn mustaches, girls with short shorts or bikinis, extended disco dance sequences, below average pop songs and naked women, then this might be for you.

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

Director: Jim O'Connolly

Starring: James Franciscus, Gila Golan, Richard Carlson, Laurence Naismith, Freda Jackson, Gustavo Rojo, Dennis Kilbane, Mario De Barros, Curtis Arden

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Cowboys Battle Monsters in the Lost World of Forbidden Valley.

Plot: It's 1900 and Cowboy James Franciscus seeks fame and fortune by capturing a Tyrannosaurus Rex living in the Forbidden Valley and putting it in a Mexican circus. His victim, called the Gwangi, turns out to have an aversion to being shown in public.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Hells, yeah, Pardner!

To get myself ready for COWBOYS & ALIENS (2011), I had a Cowboys & Dinosaurs double feature one night with a bunch of friends. There was this one and then it was the Awesome (!!!) THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977). Gwangi was one of those pictures I'd been wanting to see ever since I saw the balls-out, jaw-dropping trailer. Surly the movie can't be as good as that? It is!

You have to wait till about halfway in to get to the dinosaurs and that's when it gets REALLY fun. This movie rocks. The pacing is brisk, the location shooting of Almeria, Spain is fun for us Spaghetti Western freaks and Ray Harryhausen's special effects steal the show. His stop motion work is ALWAYS worth watching no matter what movie he did. I've enjoyed every film of his so far and that's quite a few.

When the shit hits the fan with a rampaging dinosaur on the loose, it's off the charts. People getting eaten, shit being destroyed, kids in peril, the works! The ONLY thing that would have made this movie better? Stop motion titties. There's got to be some lost Harryhausen footage out there with some stop motion titties. I'm pitching in ten bucks, American, into the kitty to pay someone to find it. As a huge fan of both Ray Harryhausen, stop motion animation and boobs, it's the trifecta in entertainment.

Batman (1989)

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Jerry Hall, Tracey Walter, Lee Wallace, William "Porkins" Hootkins

More info: IMDb

Plot: Bruce Wayne (Keaton) starts to make a name for himself as a masked enemy to the criminal set just when the flamboyant Joker (Nicholson) takes over as tops in the mafia.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah, but I'm a gonna wait another 10-15 years.

Man. Here's one from the archives. I haven't seen this one in almost twenty years. Then I would have rated this one a little higher. I really like the picture but I can abide by those Prince songs. Not only are they not that good but they're not even good Prince Songs. I'm getting ahead of myself. When I heard Keaton was going to be Batman I about shit my college-aged britches. It was the miscasting call of the decade. Then I saw the picture and my fears were set aside. I liked Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman. I've always liked him as an actor (especially the comedies like JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY) and I really dug him in BATMAN.

Not so much on the Kim Basinger choice. Never cared for her. Over rated and not THAT pretty. Gee whiz. The rest of the cast was great. I LOVED seeing Palance as the crime boss that The Joker takes out. Nicholson was great and that little piece of Palance impression he does was hilarious. I was curious as to how his performance would stand up to having not seen it in so long AND having seen THE DARK KNIGHT with Heath Ledger's iconic and definitive performance a gazillion times. It holds up just fine. I thoroughly enjoyed Nicholson's Joker. These two guys had their own take on the villain and there's plenty of room for both.

I never noticed Nicholson's Palance impression until now...

The set design is marvelous. I love Anton Furst's and Burton's dark, Gothic take on Gotham City. And how about Danny Elfman's score??? HOLY SHIT is it batshit awesome!!! It's just as dark as the central character and the look of the film AND I left the theater humming it for days. Throughout the 80s and 90s Elfman shone as bright as the sun and he had one memorable score after another. I don't know what happened but I've been wondering where that man went. After the entirely forgettable themes to his later-day comic book/super hero scores like SPIDER-MAN (2002) and HULK (2003), I've just about given up all hope in watching a super hero movie with some fun, memorable themes. Those days are over.

What the deuce? There's a bottle of Bat Scope on the Bat Console!
I hope he protects himself from STDs with Bat Rubbers
when bangin' Kim Basinger.

So even though I dig the movie, I don't think I'll be watching it for another twenty years. I'm not sure why but I'm OK with it. I hope BATMAN RETURNS holds up like this one. Still haven't seen the third or fourth pictures and I'm OK with that, too. A roomful of people loaded with liquor will fix that. I hear they're ripe for goofing on.

Superman: The Movie (1978)

Director: Richard Donner

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Valerie Perrine

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You'll Believe a Man Can Fly!

Plot: Unable to convince the ruling council of Krypton that their world will destroy itself soon, scientist Jor-El takes drastic measures to preserve the Kryptonian race: He sends his infant son Kal-El to Earth. There, gaining great powers under Earth's yellow sun, he will become a champion of truth and justice. Raised by the Kents, an elderly farm couple, Clark Kent learns that his abilities must be used for good. The adult Clark travels to Metropolis, where he becomes a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet...and a caped wonder whose amazing feats stun the city: Superman! Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, the world's greatest criminal mind, is plotting the greatest real estate swindle of all time. Can't even the Man of Steel stop this nefarious scheme?

My rating: 10/10

Will I watch it again? Duh.

I remember seeing this in the theater in '78. It's always been a top favorite. I don't care for the director's cut which, unbeknownst to me, is what's on the Blu-ray. I'd rather have the original. The addition scene with Brando was nice but it's also partially redundant and the scene where Supes visits Luthor in his lair where he's greeted with machine guns and flame throwers isn't necessary and feels like it should have been in the deleted scenes section instead.

With that out of the way, SUPERMAN is fantastic. I dig how they cover so much ground and the tonal shifts. It's deadly serious (the Smallville stuff with his parents is heartbreaking), sometimes campy and very, very funny. Richard Donner delivers the goods. Christopher Reeve is the definitive Man of Steel, Gene Hackman is brilliant as Lex Luthor and Margot Kidder is my ideal Lois Lane (and it doesn't hurt that she needs to have my babies.)

HOKEY SMOKE! I just discovered that Margot Kidder posed for Playboy in 1975!!!
The supporting cast is superb as well. The special effects are great. Hell, the whole damn movie is great. And there's no way I'm getting through this without mentioning John Williams' contribution. His score is one of the all time greats. It's the kind of score you need for a comic book movie such as this. It's heroic and triumphant and IT'S GOT A THEME (several, in fact) THAT YOU WALK OUT OT THE THEATER SINGING/WHISTLING/HUMMING! Modern film composers have grown apart from this style of writing and that just makes me mad. Harumph!

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE is one of those comfort films that feels like a warm blanket on a cold, lonely night. I loved it in '78 and I dig it just as much today. As I watched it recently I could see how if I didn't have nostalgia (even still I'd think it a terrific film), it would be very easy to pick this picture apart like vultures on the rotting corpse of Crom but I dare not tamper with such a treasured piece of my childhood.

The Thin Man (1934)

Director: W.S. Van Dyke

Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Minna Gombell, Casar Romero

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A laugh tops every thrilling moment!

Plot: Young Dorothy Wynant approaches amateur sleuth Nick Charles when her inventor father appears to be a major suspect in a murder case. In fact, Dorothy is so worried about her father's guilt that she tries to convince Nick that she did it. Nick's wife Nora wants him on the case so that she can experience some of the excitement herself. However, Nick is reluctant to get involved until he sees that police Lt. Guild is coming to the wrong conclusions. Nick decides that the best way to clear up the case is to invite all the suspects to dinner with Lt. Guild and see what happens...

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? And with martinis on hand!

I love this flick. It's so friggin' hilarious. The charisma between William Powell and Myrna Loy is priceless. I've seen it at least three or four times and I always forget the details of the murder but it really doesn't matter because it's Nick and Nora that steal the entire show and the murder is just the device that gives them lots of opportunities to be so much fun. They're adorable.

Myrna Loy needs to have my alcoholic babies!

The drinking is insane. The parties, the martinis, the double entendres, the gags are all over the place. My favorite? Getting shot in the tabloids...

Goddamn that's funny. I haven't seen any of the sequels yet because I know they just can't live up to the greatness of this firs flick. You're missing out on one of the greatest comedies of the 30s if you haven't caught this one yet. Excuse me while I mix myself a martini.

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008)

Director: Marina Zenovich

Starring: Roman Polanski

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The truth couldn't fit in the headlines.

Plot: Marina Zenovich's new documentary examines the public scandal and private tragedy which led to legendary director Roman Polanski's sudden flight from the United States.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

Damn. It's only been four months since I caught this on Netflix instant and I can't remember squat about it. Maybe that says something. It's basically a biography of Polanski, albeit brief, that obviously focuses on the circumstances of his raping a 13 year old girl, his arrest, trail and his fleeing the United States to avoid incarceration. That's pretty much it. They examine how he's hated in the U.S. and how he's loved in Europe, hence the title. I guess I liked it even though I can't recall much of it (I would've remembered if I hated it). What he did was repulsive and he
should've paid the penalty but I've always like Polanski's films (except for FRANTIC (1988) which was flawed...and boring). I can separate the artist from the act and only judge his work. As a man, his actions way back when were deplorable but I'll still give his films a chance.

Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)

Director: Bob Keljan

Starring: Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Michael Murphy, Michael Macready, D.J. Anderson, Judy Lang

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Dashing, Dark and Deadly.

Plot: Sixties couples Michael and Donna and Paul and Erica become involved with the intense Count Yorga at a Los Angeles seance, the Count having latterly been involved with Erica's just-dead mother. After taking the Count home, Paul and Erica are waylayed, and next day a listless Erica is diagnosed by their doctor as having lost a lot of blood. When she is later found feasting on the family cat the doctor becomes convinced vampirism is at work, and that its focus is Count Yorga and his large isolated house.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? Noop.

#51 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 1 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

Ever since I can remember I've heard this was a classic vampire flick with cult status. So last night I figured I'd give it a go. 90 minutes later I'm scratching my head wondering why this is held in such high regard. It's not THAT good. Was there any nudity? Nope. What about gore? Very little. Was there lots of cool vampire action? Not really. Was it boring? It held my interest. The pacing was pretty good. The final confrontation's kinda cool but that's only because not an awful lot happened prior to it and I kept wondering if it was going to get better. Quarry makes a good Count Dracula...oops, I mean Count Yorga. It's too bad there wasn't a better story to feature him. YORGA is by the numbers vampire movie that's not a complete bore. The only reason I can think that this is so loved by its fans is that it was made in the U.S. at a time when vampire flicks were coming almost entirely from Europe. At least theirs had skin and blood. It's on Netflix instant if you're interested.

Dracula (1974)

Director: Dan Curtis

Starring: Jack Palance, Simon Ward, Nigel Davenport, Pamela Brown, Fiona Lewis, Penelope Horner

More info: IMDb

Plot: A modern-day Dracula posing as psychic medium Count Yorga (Quarry) preys on unsuspecting young women in 1970 Los Angeles -- leaving their surviving male consorts no choice but to band together and fight back. With the help of a doctor (Perry) who suspects that his female patients' blood loss is the work of a vampire, they track down the count to inflict their revenge

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

I've been a Jack Palance fan for as long as I can remember and for years I've been putting off watching this made for TV movie for fear of not liking it. He plays Dracula, of course, and even though he's actually doing some sober acting, it's not quite what I hoped for. I haven't a clue as to what I thought he'd bring to it but it wasn't quite this. It's a good film and anyone who digs the Bram Stoker story naturally needs to check it out. It's rather dry. I would have liked more music. Beats me. It was tiring to get through and I'm glad I saw it...not that I'm a better man as a result or anything but it did have its merits. It's not the masterpiece I hoped for but I dug it. What hurt most was that I couldn't shake the sudden desire to see Werner Herzog's version of NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Simple Plan (1998)

Director: Sam Raimi

Starring: Bill Paxton, Bridget Fonda, Billy Bob Thornton, Brent Briscoe

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Sometimes good people do evil things.

Plot: Two brothers and a friend find $4 million in the cockpit of a downed plane. The pilot is dead. No one is looking for the money. To keep it, all they have to do is wait. IT ALL SOUNDED SO SIMPLE.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Yup.

If you like movies where it keeps going from bad to worse for good people like I do then buckle up for one hell of a ride. It's the kind of constant "OH SHIT!" moments you get in the best of the Coen brothers like BLOOD SIMPLE (1984) and FARGO (1996). People have unfairly compared it to FARGO which is unfair because all it has in common is snow and a series of "OH FUCK ME!" scenes.

Sam Raimi made sure there wasn't a wasted moment on the screen and the performances are just wow, particularly Billy Bob Thornton. There's a scene where he confides in his brother, played by Bill Paxton, which feels all too real and heart-wrenching. Man, he's good. Danny Elfman delivers a good score and the ending is worth waiting for. It's an excellent film no matter how you slice it.

Animal House (1978)

Director: John Landis

Starring: Tim Matheson, John Belushi, John Vernon, Peter Riegert, Bruce McGil, Karen Allen, Tom Hulce, Stephen Furst, Mark Metcalf, Mary Louise Weller, Martha Smith, James Daughton, Kevin Bacon, Donald Sutherland, Verna Bloom, Otis Day

More info: IMDb

Tagline: We got to do something...You know what we are gonna do ? Toga party!

Plot: At a 1962 College, Dean Vernon Wormer is determined to expel the entire Delta Tau Chi Fraternity, but those troublemakers have other plans for him.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Uh, YEAH!

There are some movies that are so well known and fun that you don't need to say much about it. This is one of them. It's another one of those 'comfort movies' I'll watch every once in a while that takes me back to my childhood. I must have been eleven or so when I caught this late nights on HBO back in '80 or '81. You know the drill. You stayed up super late after everyone was asleep and you'd sneak into the living room to see if you could catch a glimpse of some naked girls on the 'boob tube'. This was one of the earliest for me and therefore has a special place in my heart.

A lot's changed since then (that's debatable) but the movie hasn't. It's still as fun and aloof as it was then and, again, it's one of those time warp movies that take me back to my happy place. CADDYSHACK (1980) is another one. It's been too long. I need to slap that one in soon.

Karen Allen needs to have my babies!

Donald Sutherland...does not.

Tim Matheson and the rest of the cast are hilarious, John Vernon doesn't get to have more fun and Elmer Bernstein's score is delightful. It always cracked me up that this is the same guy that did THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956), THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960), THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), TRUE GRIT (1969) and on and on, and here he is doing low brow comedy. I love it. This was the first of many comedies for Bernstein who went on to score MEATBALLS (1979), AIRPLANE! (1980), STRIPES (1981), THREE AMIGOS! (1986), etc.

"The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that me."

ANIMAL HOUSE is a classic in sophomoric comedy that opened the floodgates for a gazillion copycats and it's a part of my childhood. Now where's the fucking commentary by Landis and the cast, GODDAMNIT!!!

The Witches (1966)

Director: Cyril Frankel

Starring: Joan Fontaine, Kay Walsh, Alec McCowen, Ann Bell, Ingrid Boulting, John Collin

More info: IMDb


Plot: An English school teacher outposted in Africa has a run in with the local witch doctor and suffers a nervous breakdown. After recovering back in England she takes a job teaching in a small country town hoping to make a new start for herself. All goes well at first, until she starts to hear some disturbing stories about the town. She soon discovers the town is home to a coven of witches and they plan to sacrifice a local girl in one of their rituals.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? Hell, no.

#33 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)

Aka THE DEVIL'S OWN, THE WITCHES is an exercise in boredom. It too me three tries to get through this. It plods along at a snails pace to the point that I just didn't care and wished it would end. I am not impressed with Joan Fontaine. Maybe it's her older style of acting that feels out of place here or maybe she was miscast. Huh, she's Olivia de Havilland's older sister AND she turns 94 this year! Cool. That still doesn't help the exaggerated performance (her last film, btw) in this ever so slow picture that just sits there. The climax with the sacrifice is ridiculous and silly, not to mention the incredibly stupid and upbeat tacked-on coda. With 14 (of 59) Hammer horror films left to watch, I sincerely hope that this is the worst. I can't imagine Hammer topping this one. Woof.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Penn & Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour (2003)

Directors: Ric Esther Bienstock, Mick Grogan, Hugo Smith

Starring: Well...this fella named Penn and another named, uh, Teller.

More info: IMDb

Plot: Master prestidigitation team Penn Jillette and Teller trek around the world to determine the origins of magic and examine how the art form has influenced and been changed by different traditions and cultures. The pair analyzes routines from far-flung places across the globe such as India and Egypt, at once wowed by the tricks and, as befitting renowned magicians, taking notes for future performances.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Absolutely.

I've been a magic freak since I was a kid and, like most people, I was forever trying to figure out how it was done. But then a lot of people don't want to know because it ruins the 'magic' of it. I welcome it because I've always marvelled at the talent, the persistence and the countless hours of practice it took to make the trick work. I appreciate the artistry of magic.

Penn & Teller respect the art and here they're traipsing across the world to Egypt, China and India in three 50-minute shows that showcase their talents as well as those of a plethora of magicians they encountered, all special and all very, very talented. I thoroughly enjoyed these and wished they did more than just the three. It's a fascinating look into magic outside of the English-speaking world.

The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)

Directors: Nanette Burstein & Brett Morgen

Starring: Robert Evans and a shitload of celebrities by way of photographs

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Success. Scandal. Sex. Tragedy. Infamy. And that's just the first reel...

Plot: This documentary captures the life story of legendary Hollywood producer and studio chief Robert Evans. The first actor to ever to run a film studio, Robert Evans' film career started in 1956, poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel. His good looks, charm and overwhelming confidence captured the eye of screen legend Norma Shearer, who offered him a film role. After a glamorous--but short-lived--career as a movie star, Evans tried out producing. At the age of 34, with no producing credits to his name, he landed a job as chief of production at Paramount Pictures. Evans ran the studio from 1966-1974. During his tenure, he was responsible for such revolutionary films as The Godfather, Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, The Odd Couple, Harold and Maude and Chinatown. By the early '80s, the Golden Boy of Hollywood was losing his luster. After a failed marriage to Ali MacGraw, a cocaine bust and rumored involvement with the Cotton Club murder, he disappeared into near-obscurity. Only through tremendous will and uncanny luck did he once again rise as the kid who stays in the picture.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Ch'yeah!

EXCELLENT documentary. I loved how they took Evans' recording of his audio book and brought countless photographs to life. It's marvelous. Evans led a fascinating life and it would be interesting to see what he would have accomplished if he hadn't fucked up his career with drugs and shit. He had great line delivery, though. His heyday was the late 60s through the mid 70s and for a while, he was king of the world. I'm a sucker for movies about movies or anything really with the industry.

I've always wanted to be involved in the picture business (who hasn't?) and I'd like to think that it could happen. I should just shut up about it and make my own damn movies. Alright, that's it. I'm officially putting out a casting call for girls who'll get topless for art. It doesn't pay but there'll be sandwiches.