Friday, February 28, 2014

Strictly Sinatra (2001)

Director: Peter Capaldi

Writer: Peter Capaldi

Composer: Stanislas Syrewicz

Starring: Ian Hart, Kelly Macdonald, Brian Cox, Alun Armstrong, Tommy Flanagan, Iain Cuthbertson, Una McLean, Jimmy Chisholm, Jimmy Yuill

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Toni wanted a crowd... he got the mob

Plot: A small-time crooner find himself on the receiving end of the threatening attentions of a gangster, whose wife has fallen for the singer's Sinatra-like aura.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Crooners, British gangsters, Brian Cox...I'm in.  This is an unusual British crime film in that the lead is a 28 year old low rent lounge singer that only performs Frank Sinatra tunes until a local, elderly gangster kingpin and his wife take an interest in his music.  As Toni (Hart) as been struggling with his craft he's sucked into their world by Chisolm (Cox) who tells him stories of the times he met Sinatra in Vegas and promises to help his career.  The picture moves along like you'd expect it to, with a young whipper snapper being sucked into the criminal world.  Along the way he meets and falls in love with Irene (Macdonald) (you'll know her as Margaret from BOARDWALK EMPIRE (2010)) and you know that their relationship is going to be strained by his involvement with the gangsters and that he's going to get in too deep and not be able to break away from them but you know further that he will find a way and that he and Irene will start a new life together.  Yeah, it pretty much writes itself but it's not an uninteresting picture.  I might be more inclined to like this because I'm also a crooner with a band that does Sinatra tunes.  I wasn't all that thrilled with the ending as it seemed like there could have been a better way of getting Toni & Irene to their destination but it's still a worthwhile effort.  If you need another excuse to check it out, it's fun seeing a MUCH thinner Brian Cox.

Aces High (1976)

Director: Jack Gold

Writers: Howard Barker, R.C. Sherriff, Cecil Lewis

Composer: Richard Hartley

Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Christopher Plummer, Simon Ward, Peter Firth, David Wood, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, Richard Johnson, Ray Milland, Christopher Blake, Gilles Behat, Elliott Cooper, David Daker, Barry Jackson, Jacques Maury, Ron Pember, Tim Pigott-Smith

More info: IMDb

Tagline: High above the trenches 14 days is a long life...This is the 15th day!

Plot: A naive young officer straight from school arrives on the Western front to fight the air war against the Germans. However, the life expectancy of green pilots is not very good.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Sadly, there are too few movies about the first World War.  I Guess it's because WWII was a lot sexier and fun (not really but it's perceived that way) and it overshadows the previous one.  Regardless, I'll watch anything related to it.  The cast is quite good but the mood of the film is largely dreary, just like the scenery and the look of the film.  I don't know why that soft film look was popular during the 1970s and 80s.  I'm not a fan.  It's rarely worked for me.  Regardless, I think it hurts this picture, especially when you add it to the pacing that moseys along but picks up from time to time.  There is a bit of aerial dogfights which is welcome but there's nothing terribly exciting about them.  I'll say this, the ending caught my by complete surprise.  Didn't see that coming.  ACES feels like it's trying to remake THE DAWN PATROL (1938), starring Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone and David Niven), a MUCH better picture in every way.  I couldn't keep myself from thinking about it at just about every turn...not a good sign.  Still, it's worth checking out but do yourself a favor and get your hands on THE DAWN PATROL.  You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shiner (2000)

Director: John Irvin

Writer: Scott Cherry

Composer: Paul Grabowsky

Starring: Michael Caine, Martin Landau, Frances Barber, Frank Harper, Andy Serkis, Danny Webb, Claire Rushbrook, Matthew Marsden, Kenneth Cranham, David Kennedy, Peter Wight, Nicola Walker, Gary Lewis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: All That's Left Is... Revenge.

Plot: Billy 'Shiner' Simpson is a shady boxing promoter in South London banned from legitimate fights. It's the biggest day of his life, though, because he has a champion on his hands, his 20-year-old son, Eddie. Billy's put all his money on a victory, as have his quarreling daughters. But Eddie is nervous, an odd guy in a cap is hanging about, the licensed promoter Billy has hired to arrange the evening's other fights has hired dogs, the manager of Eddie's opponent looks down scornfully on Billy and on South London, and Scotland Yard wants to Billy for the death of a club brawler. When the night goes disastrously wrong, Billy tries to find out who double-crossed him.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I doubt I've ever seen a poor performance from Michael Caine.  Slap him together with even a mediocre script with him meddling about in British crime and you're at least going to get an entertaining picture and that's exactly what this is.  His emotions run the gamut from happy to sad and from charming to vengeful.  Something happens after the boxing match about halfway through that sets the rest of the film in motion.  At this point I started to get a vibe like THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY (1980) where Billy (Caine) is trying to figure out what the fuck is going on. My mind was racing with possibilities.  Now the ending isn't as powerful as the other film but it's a different picture with a different story and whatnot, but it is one that services this picture well.  The performances are strong (it's great seeing Serkis playing one of Billy's bodyguards and having fun with it) as is the story and while it's not likely to make anyone's top list of British crime pictures, it is worth a watch for fans of the genre or the players involved.

The Gardener (1974)

Director: James H. Kay

Writer: James H. Kay

Composer: Marc Fredericks

Starring: Katherine Houghton, Joe Dallesandro, Rita Gam, James Congdon, Anne Meacham, Teodorina Bello, Ivan Rodriguez, Esther mari, Roberto Negron

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Garden of LOVE... Garden of DEATH, He Plants the Seeds of Evil

Plot:  Ellen (Houghton) and her husband John (Congdon) enjoy the good life in their lovely Costa Rica home-all that's missing is a nice garden. Enter the mysterious and dangerously handsome Carl (Dallesandro), who creates a botanical paradise while casting a spell on Ellen and her woman friends. Things take a turn for the worse when Ellen discovers that her Gardener may be planting his own "seeds of evil".

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Here's a strange little horror picture.  The story is pretty interesting and except for the horrible performance of Dallesandro, everyone does a pretty good job.  The score sounds like it's from a 70s TV movie of the week (aka it's cheesy).  As I mentioned, Dallesandro is horrible but he's not there to speak eloquently, he's there to show off his body (he's shirtless from start to finish and sometimes pantsless).  I was going along with the first hour where Ellen (Houghton, Katherine Hepburn's niece, by the way) is oblivious to the mysterious goings on at the house but everyone around her, including the audience, knows there's something weird about this dude and it's not going to end well.  Then she's sleuthing for herself to find out about his past employers only to discover they all died mysteriously.  Sur-PRISE!!!  Then there's a big showdown with bullets and branches and shit.  It's not a bad picture but because we the audience know something's up with this dude, when Ellen does her detective bit, the picture slows down way too much.   That's what hurts the picture; that and Dallesandro's cardboard acting. It's worth a rental if you can find it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Ghosts of Edendale (2003)

Director: Stefan Avalos

Writer: Stefan Avalos

Composer: Vincent Gillioz

Starring: Paula Ficara, Stephen Wastell, Andrew Kirsanov, Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe, Patrick Hasson, Nathan Lum, Ethan Grant, Jay Brown, Robert Lane, Maureen Davis, Cynthia King, Arthur Guzman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Some people are dying to make it in the movies.

Plot: A young couple moves into a neighborhood obsessed with the frightening silent movie history that took place 80 years before. As the boyfriend also becomes obsessed, it becomes apparent that something more is happening.

My rating: 2/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Look at that poster.  Does it look like a horror/Western?  Hell, the first two genres listed on IMDb for it are Horror and Western (yeah, I realize that it's probably added by anyone who wants to update it, but still).  I guess part of my disappointment with this is that this isn't what I thought by a friggin' long shot.  But then the other part could be because it bored the piss out of me.  OK, so I exagerate a little.  At no point did urine escape my urethra but it really taxed my ability to stay awake.  90 minutes a f Rachel (Ficara) seeing things wasn't doing it for me.  There are several scenes where she's nude in a hot tub or a shower (really, several) without showing any nudity.  Call me a pig but this picture could have used the scant nipple or two or three.  Ugh.  I really wanted to dig this one.  Oh, yeah, the DVD cover says it's from the maker of THE LAST BROADCAST (1998), which I've heard really good things about so I was looking forward to checking out this "horror/Western".  It's time to move on...

The African Queen (1951)

Director: John Huston

Writers: C.S. Forester, James Agee, John Huston, Peter Viertel, John Collier

Composer: Allan Gray

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel, Walter Gotell, Peter Swanwick, Richard Marner, Errol John, Gerald Onn, John von Kotze

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The greatest adventure a man ever lived...with a woman!

Plot: In Africa during WW1, a gin-swilling riverboat owner/captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

For as long as I can remember the AFI top 100 film list showing up with this on it, it was one of the few (and, ultimately, the last) movies on it I hadn't seen.  Now I have.  It's a good picture.  On a road trip recently I listened to a lot of Lux Radio Theater broadcasts that starred people like Bogart, Flynn, Cagney, and Robinson and this was one of them.  It's essentially the same story but condensed for a 45 minute radio broadcast.  So when I fired up Netflix streaming to watch it I was well aware of what to expect.  I dug it.  Rose (Hepburn) is WAY too uptight but then she is a staunch Christian and it is one hundred years ago.  Charlie (Bogart), on the other hand, is a great guy, my kind of guy, except that he's WAY too forgiving and accommodating with Rose.  When she pours out his last two cases of gin into the river I can't believe he didn't flip the fuck out.  Hell, the very next scene he's praising her for it.  The hell?  I assume a few days had gone by and he was sobered up and lonely as hell since she wasn't talking to him.  Shit, maybe it was the constant exposure to the hot jungle sun.  I'm going to chalk it up to that. At least leave the brother one bottle.  Geez.

The ending was fun.  I would give this a higher rating if they'd actually been hung after all.  That would have been a great, balls-out, insane ending.  I guess the Germans didn't earn their reputation for efficiency until after WWI.  Regardless, how amazing would it have been if this didn't end happily for our two lovebirds?  Hepburn wrote a book about her experiences making this picture (which I've had for 25 years and have never read).  I think it's time I dusted it off and give it a shot.  Speaking of shots...where's that gin?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Barracuda (1978)

Directors: Harry Kerwin, Wayne Crawford

Writers: Harry Kerwin, Wayne Crawford

Composer: Klaus Schulze

Starring: Wayne Crawford, Jason Evers, Roberta Leighton, Cliff Emmich, William Kerwin, Bert Freed, Harry Kerwin, Rick Rhodes, Matt King, Robert G. Noe, William Roundebush

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You Can Almost Hear The Screams! as the water below becomes a CHURNING DEATHBED of FLASHING TEARING TEETH!

Plot: The quaint seaside town of Palm Cove is home to upstanding citizens, good ol' fashioned southern hospitality and a deadly rash of barracuda attacks. The town sheriff (William Kerwin) and a young marine biologist (Crawford) join forces to discover that the culprits are none other than the local chemical plant and its odious managers. but little do they know that the scheme runs much, much deeper.

My rating: 4.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

This looked like one of the many JAWS (1975) clones that littered the drive-ins during the last half of the 70s but it's not.  It's too bad, too, because it might have been much better if it had been. The acting is sub-standard (surprise!) but serviceable, as you would expect for this kind of picture.  That's all OK if the movie wasn't 98 minutes long and filled with dull spots.  The story itself is alright, covering the same ground so many other pictures have done before and since.  The score sounds like it's for a low budget cheesy Italian horror movie which adds just a little bit of fun.  Blood and gore?  Zilch.  Nudity?  Bupkiss.  Those two ingredients would have gone a long way in helping this picture entertain, that and cutting the running time a bit. The only thing I dug was the surprise ending.  The reason all of this shit is going down is pretty neat ONLY because you don't expect it.  As a plot resolution, it's common.  This is a great example of exploitation because the posters promise a completely different film and at the end, you're the one that was exploited.

Maniac (2012)

Director: Franck Khalfoun

Writers: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur, Joe Spinell

Composer: Robin Coudert

Starring: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, America Olivo, Sammi Rotibi, Liane Balaban, Morgane Slemp, Genevieve Alexandra, Megan Duffy, Jan Broberg

More info: IMDb

Tagline: I warned you not to go out tonight

Plot: Just when the streets seemed safe, a serial killer with a fetish for scalps is back and on the hunt. Frank is the withdrawn owner of a mannequin store, but his life changes when young artist Anna appears asking for his help with her new exhibition. As their friendship develops and Frank's obsession escalates, it becomes clear that she has unleashed a long-repressed compulsion to stalk and kill.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

A few years ago I eagerly watched MANIAC (1980) starring Joe Spinell (who also wrote the screenplay).  I say eagerly because I'd been hearing about it for more than a decade and finally had my hands on the DVD.  I was underwhelmed.  It's possible the anticipation was too much.  Now that I've seen the remake, I'm going to have to give the original another look because this new film is really fuckin' good.  It's got a great story, great kills, great suspense, wonderfully shot, scored, etc.  What's unique about this picture is that it's almost entirely shot from the killer's, Frank (Wood), point of view, like it's a first person serial killer flick.  The thing is, it works beautifully. There are quick glimpses of Wood as he looks in a mirror or something reflective so there's a little something for Wood fans.  Personally, I found this technique refreshing.  And the ending is great.  This is a must for Horror fans.  It's currently on Netflix streaming so there's no excuse not to see it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

No Place on Earth (2012)

Director: Janet Tobias

Writers: Janet Tobias, Paul Laikin, Esther Stermer

Composer: John Piscitello

Starring: Saul Stermer, Sam Stermer, Sonia Dodyk, Sima Dodyk, Yetta Stermer, Sol Wexler, Chris Nicola, Erin Grunstein Halpern, Cliff Stermer

More info: IMDb

Tagline: An incredible story of strength and survival.

Plot: While mapping out the largest cave system in Ukraine, explorer and investigator Chris Nicola discovers evidence that five Jewish families spent nearly a year and a half in the pitch-black caves to escape the Nazis. This is the story of the longest uninterrupted underground survival in recorded human history.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

Excellent documentary.  Just when you think you've heard of all the different Holocaust survivor scenarios comes this remarkable story.  It's astonishing that these folks survived for nearly a year and a half deep inside a cave while death lurked just outside the entrance.  It's a well-made film, too, which makes for an entertaining and intriguing watch.  Highly recommended.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Director: Anthony Minghella

Writers: Anthony Minghella, Patricia Highsmith

Composer: Gabriel Yared

Starring: Matt damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jack Davenport, James Rebhorn, Sergio Rubini, Philip Baker Hall

More info: IMDb

Tagline: How far would you go to become someone else.

Plot: The 1950s. Manhattan lavatory attendant, Tom Ripley, borrows a Princeton jacket to play piano at a garden party. When the wealthy father of a recent Princeton grad chats Tom up, Tom pretends to know the son and is soon offered $1,000 to go to Italy to convince Dickie Greenleaf to return home. In Italy, Tom attaches himself to Dickie and to Marge, Dickie's cultured fiancée, pretending to love jazz and harboring homoerotic hopes as he soaks in luxury. Besides lying, Tom's talents include impressions and forgery, so when the handsome and confident Dickie tires of Tom, dismissing him as a bore, Tom goes to extreme lengths to make Greenleaf's privileges his own.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I adore this picture.  It's the late 50s atmosphere that does it the most.  Gabriel Yared's underlying, suspenseful score, the wonderful performances (although Damon's look and mannerisms creep me out for the first half), the beautiful Italian locations, the costumes, lighting, cinematography, everything builds for a tension filled flick that's got one hell of a conclusion. It feels very much like a Hitchcock flick but still keeping it Minghella's own.  If I were a reader I'd pick up the novel and devour it. Hoffman plays a great cad, so good that you'd think he were like that in real life.  Man, this is a well-cast film with some fine performances.  The singing dubbing doesn't work as well as it should but that's a minor nitpick.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Flatliners (1990)

Director: Joel Schumacher

Writer: Peter Filardi

Composer: James Newton Howard

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt, Kimberly Scott, Joshua Rudoy, Benjamin Mouton, Aeryk Egan, Kesha Reed, Hope Davis, Jim Ortlieb, John Duda

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Some lines shouldn't be crossed.

Plot: Medical students begin to explore the realm of near death experiences, hoping for insights. Each has their heart stopped and is revived. They begin having flashes of walking nightmares from their childhood, reflecting sins they committed or had committed against them. The experiences continue to intensify, and they begin to be physically beaten by their visions as they try and go deeper into the death experience to find a cure.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

My feelings haven't changed since I saw this over twenty years ago.  It's OK but reasonably entertaining. I probably should go with a 5.5/10 but it held my attention more often than not.  It boils down to a bunch of good looking kids doing retarded, impossible shit that requires you to check your brains at the door.  Everyone gives it their best shot but it's not enough to bring this back from the dead.  The premise is far fetched, sure, but their solution to fix the mental issues they have after coming back to life is ridiculous and mundane. The best part about the picture is James Newton Howard's score. If you can believe that it's possible to bring back to life someone who's been dead for twelve minutes then you might consider this.  If you can stretch that belief further and accept that said person wouldn't have the slightest bit of brain damage then hit play. 

Freaks (1932)

Director: Tod Browning

Writers: Clarence Aaron 'Tod' Robbins, Al Boasberg, Willis Goldbeck, Leon Gordon, Charles MacArthur, Edgar Allan Woolf

Composer: none

Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Roscoe Ates, Henry Victor, Harry Earles, Daisy Earles, Rose Dione, Daisy Hilton, Violet Hilton, Schlitze, Josephine Joseph, Johnny Eck, Frances O'Connor, Peter Robinson, Olga Roderick, Koo Koo

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Can a full grown woman truly love a MIDGET?

Plot: A circus trapeze artist, Cleopatra, takes an interest in Hans, a midget who works in the circus sideshow. Her interest however is in the money Hans will be inheriting and she is actually carrying on an affair with another circus performer, Hercules. Hans's fiancée does her best to convince him that he is being used but to no avail. At their wedding party, a drunken Cleopatra tells the sideshow freaks just what she thinks of them. Together, the freaks decide to make her one of their own.

My rating: 9.5/10

Will I watch it again? YES!!!

I can't count the ways I love this movie.  Too many.  It's a beautiful film.  Except for two characters, everyone in the circus are just swell, loving people.  Phroso (Ford) and Venus (Hyams) are adorable and the way he is with the sideshow kids is special.  It really gets me.  Then there's Cleopatra (Baclanova) and Hercules (Victor) who are just really nasty and cruel.  They get their comeuppance, all right.  The real stars of the show are the 'freaks'.  They're wonderfully portrayed up there on the big screen.  What's more is that they're shown as real people.  They're a close knit bunch and if you cross one of them, you cross them all.  The picture was so reviled shortly after its release that Tod "DRACULA (1931)" Browning had trouble getting work afterward.  He only did a couple of pictures before retiring which is really freaking sad since this is a brilliant and powerful picture.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Fourth Kind (2009)

Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi

Writers: Olatunde Osunsanmi, Terry Robbins

Composer: Atli Orvarsson

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Will Patton, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Corey Johnson, Enzo Cilenti, Elias Koteas, Eric Loren, Mia McKenna-Bruce

More info: IMDb

Tagline: There are four kinds of alien encounters. The fourth kind is abduction.

Plot: A thriller involving an ongoing unsolved mystery in Alaska, where one town has seen an extraordinary number of unexplained disappearances during the past 40 years and there are accusations of a federal cover up.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I'm not sure how unusual this alien abduction story is as I've seen few films about it (which has nothing to do with my not believing in it) but this one feels like it's trying something different, and for that, they get points.  Writer/director Osunsanmi utilizes psychotherapy video footage (and audio recordings) from Abbey Tyler's (Jovovich) sessions with patients, usually under hypnosis, who are all experiencing similar dreams that she discovers, near the end of the film, are alien abductions.  The technique is pretty effective but largely if you're a believer.  I liked the ending with the abduction and the aftermath but I really didn't care all that much leading up to it so there you go.  There are an awful lot of after the film text screens telling you what happened with the principal players, most of whom refused to have anything to do with the making of this picture.  Hmmmmmm.  What were their reasons?  That could be interesting.  The biggest piss off for me was the pounding score.  There were far too many sudden bursts of serious, moody music in the way you'd get with jump scares.  It happens so often that I started laughing at each new outburst.  Too much, Man, too much.  I'd rather watch an episode of THE X-FILES instead of this.  ANY episode.

Curse of the Undead (1959)

Director: Edward Dein

Writers: Edward Dein, Mildred Dein

Composer:Irving Gertz

Starring: Eric Fleming, Michael Pate, Kathleen Crowley, John Hoyt, Bruce Gordon, Edward Binns, Jimmy Murphy, Helen Kleeb, Jay Adler, Eddie Parker, John Truax, Frankie Van, Rush Williams

More info: IMDb

Tagline: His body is an empty shell that hides a lustful fiend!

Plot: The cinema's first vampire Western! Young women in a small Western town are dying one by one of an unknown malady involving massive blood loss. The Carter family's ranch is being terrorized by ruthless land baron Buffer. And a mysterious black-clad gunfighter with an aversion to sunlight has just arrived in town.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not until I exhaust every other cowboy vampire movie out there.

I'm a sucker for a horror or sci-fi flick that's also a Western.  Gimme, gimme, gimme. This claims to be the first vampire western and it just might be.  It's too bad the vampire is the least charismatic six iron in the holster.  It's a pretty standard, by the numbers Western but with the added twist of featuring a vampire as the bad guy. Everyone but Drake (Pate), the vampire, is delivering the kind of B-Western performance you'd expect.  But Pate is just...well, strange.  However, by the end of the picture I was kind of getting used to it.  Maybe a second watch would fix that but there are far too many movies to watch before I ever get the hankerin' to see this one again.  Still, it's worth your time but don't expect a whole lot.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Boogie Nights (1997)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson

Composer: Michael Penn

Starring: Luis Guzman, burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, Mark Wahlberg, William H. Macy, Nina Hartley, Joanna Gleason, Ricky Jay, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip baker Hall, Thomas Jane, Alfred Molina

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Everyone has one special thing

Plot: Eddie Adams would have been just another high-school drop-out had he not met the likes of adult film director Jack Horner. Horner transforms Eddie into Dirk Diggler, a rising-star actor with a special gift. Set in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the film is a tribute to the decor, style, culture, and social attitudes of the era.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes

Geez, I haven't seen this in fifteen years.  What a great flick.  I'd forgotten how much it feels like the GOODFELLAS (1990) of the 70s porn scene. There are several moments that feel like that flick and it's great.  I remember two scenes that really had me on edge the first time around, the Dirk in the truck cutting back and forth with Rollergirl in the limo and the drug deal gone bad.  It was tense.  For the second watch they weren't as powerful even though I'd forgotten how each of the scenes concluded.  The cast is fantastic.  Wahlberg has rarely been better (from what I've seen) and what a knockout performance by Burt Reynolds.  He really had that porn director slick and sleazy look down pat.  It's too bad he didn't take advantage of all of the wonderful reviews he got and gave himself another comeback career.  He's a very good actor when the right material comes his way, he just doesn't pick 'em like he should.  Heather Graham...mmmmmmmmmm.  Scrummy.  I could go down the list but the entire cast is amazing.  I would sure love to buy casting director Christine Sheaks a drink.  Just based on this one film, she's fucking amazing in my book.  Wow.  But then there's writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who has yet to make a bad picture.  I've seen all but his latest film and they're all so damn wonderful.  And for someone like me who was in their teens in the 80s, seeing a lot of 70s and 80s porn stars in small cameos in this picture is a real treat.

Gran Torino (2008)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Writers: Nick Schenk, Dave Johannson

Composer: Kyle Eastwood, Michael Stevens

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Christopher Carley, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Brian Haley, Geraldine Hughes, Dreama Walker, Brian Howe, John Carroll Lynch, William Hill, Brooke Chia Thao, chee Thao, Choua Kue, Scott Eastwood, Xia Soua Chang

More info: IMDb

Plot: Disgruntled Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbor, a Hmong teenager who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possession: a 1972 Gran Torino.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

This has been on my watch list since it came out several years ago and I'm just now getting around to it.  I don't know why I waited so's really good.  I wasn't digging on Walt's (Eastwood) snarling, growling and over acting the meanness in the first half of the picture but he eventually loses most of that and becomes less of a cartoon character as the film progresses.  The two hour running time feels a little long but I can't think of anything in the picture that I would remove because it all works very nicely.  Without spoiling it, the ending is great but not in the way you might think.  I was surprised.  It's a great character study.  Wait, it's a fun character study.  There's nothing all that inventive here and it does play pretty much by the numbers but it's enjoyable and the cast makes this a gas to watch.  I wish I had Walt's neighbors.  As it is, I hardly know anyone in my neighborhood and I have a large family of Vietnamese two doors down that I don't know at all. I should fix that.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Excalibur (1981)

Director: John Boorman

Writers: Thomas Malory, Rospo Pallenberg, John Boorman

Composer: Trevor Jones

Starring: Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay, Cherie Lunghi, Paul Geoffrey, Nicol Williamson, Robert Addie, Gabriel Byrne, Keith Buckley, Katrine Boorman, Liam Neeson, Corin Redgrave, Niall O'Brien, Patrick Stewart, Clive Swift, Ciaran Hinds

More info: IMDb

Tagline: No mortal could possess it! No kingdom could command it!

Plot: Merlin the magician helps Arthur Pendragon unite the Britons around the round table of Camelot even as forces conspire to tear it apart.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

This is the definitive telling of the King Arthur legend.  Well, it is in my book.  There's no denying, though, that this is the most adult and mature film version of the tale.  The performances are great.  I love the enthusiastic take Nicol Williamson had for Merlin.  And this picture has a lot of then-unknowns that have since become A-list actors.  Seeing Clive Swift (the husband in the hilarious UK show, KEEPING UP APPEARANCES (1990)) in such a serious role is cool as shit.  I mostly just dig the reality world with a touch of fantasy but not that child fantasy crap you would expect.  Trevor Jones' score is great but the use of classical music in spots often doesn't work well and it's mostly because of the music editing.  These cues weren't written for the film so it's really awful sometimes when the music quickly fades or is cut off at an unexpected moment.  It's so bad at times that I'm shocked the film was released that way.  I can understand a temp track like that but it's unacceptable for a finished product and one so well made as this.  One thing that never escapes me is the running time of two hours and twenty one minutes.  It feels like three hours but I dig this film so much that I can overlook that...that is until the next time I'm an hour and a half into it with forty one minutes to go.

Carl Panzram: The Spirit of Hatred and Vengeance (2012)

Director: John Borowski

Writer: ???

Composer: ???

Starring:  John DiMaggio, Tom Lodewyck, David Salmonson, Brett Jetmund, David Weiss, Douglas Wynne, Matthew Aaron, David Schmidt, William Knight, Henry Lesser

More info: IMDb

Plot: This documentary tells the story of early 20th-century serial killer Carl Panzram, who wrote his autobiography at the urging of Henry Lesser, a prison guard with whom he forged a strange friendship.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Currently on Netflix streaming, this fascinating documentary takes you on an amazing ride using Panzram's own words.  His voice over actor sounds like a deep voiced, menacing Kiefer Sutherland but after a while it works well enough I suppose. Like most of these types of criminals, you can't take everything they say at face value so they probably did less than what they purport but even if he did a fraction of what he admits to, it would make him a frightening figure.  He appears to be a product of his environment from which he emerged from being beaten and abused to a world which he wanted nothing but to exact revenge on as it had turned him into a bitter and hateful monster.  His goal was to rob, rape and kill everyone he could.  His prison escapes and travels are fascinating.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)

Director: Jay Roach

Writers: Mike Myers, Michael McCullers

Composer: George S. Clinton

Starring: Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles, Seth Green, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Michael Caine, Fred Savage, Diane Mizota, Carrie Ann Inaba, Nobu Matsuhisa, Clint Howard, Michael McDonald, Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, Britney Spears, Nathan Lane, Katie Couric, Ozzy Osbourne, John Travolta, Burt Bacharach, Rob Lowe

More info: IMDb

Tagline: On July 26th the Secret Will Be Exposed

Plot: Upon learning that his father has been kidnapped, Austin Powers must travel to 1975 and defeat the aptly-named villain Goldmember - who is working with Dr. Evil.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I totally dig the opening sequence with the fake out with the actors.  Brilliant. The credits dance on the studio backlot is hilarious except for one fucking things...BRITNEY SPEARS.  THE FUCK?  The Soul Bossa Nova tune is going all great guns and then she shows up and goes into a retarded music video for a solid fucking minute.  Even exploding her at the end of it wasn't satisfying (and you'd think it would be, you know, blowing her up into a million shitty pieces).  It's just horrendous.  I love the continued direction of Dr. Evil (Myers) and Scott (Green).  That's funny and so is the big reveal at the end about Austin (Myers), Evil and others.  Loved it.  Michael Caine as Austin's father is a stroke of genius casting and including that piece of film from GET CARTER (1971) is all kinds of awesome.  The shadow scene is hilarious and it's fun to see them take that concept they had in the previous film and get some more life out of it. The peeing statue scene is really funny, too.  But the one thing that really hurts this flick more than anything is the character of Goldmenber (Myers).  There's nothing funny or interesting about him.  Nothing.  And the damn movie's named after him.  It's a huge waste of film.  It's just awful and a sorry excuse for a joke.  Goldmember.  It's like Goldfinger but instead of a gold finger it's a gold dick.  Get it?  How fucking lame.  But, hey, how about that Mini Me (Troyer) switching sides and dressing like Austin?  Now THAT'S funny.  I saw this in the theater 12 years ago and I didn't like it at all.  Now that I've watched it again, it's not nearly as bad as I remembered.  Despite the idiotic Goldmember character, it's a pretty funny movie but it doesn't stand up to either of the first two pictures.  Maybe in another ten years we'll get a fourth one.  Hell, I'll go see it.

Heist (2001)

Director: David Mamet

Writer: David Mamet

Composer: Theodore Shapiro

Starring: Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ricky Jay, Patti LuPone, Alan Bilzerian, Richard L. Friedman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Love makes the world go 'round... Love of Gold.

Plot: Gene Hackman plays the brilliant leader of a gang (Lindo, Jay & Pigeon as Hackman's youngish wife), which pulls off complex heists for a despicable fence (DeVito). After stiffing the gang on a jewelry robbery, DeVito forces the gang to go after a Swiss gold shipment and to use his nephew (Rockwell) in the crime. No one trusts anyone and every step is shaded with the unexpected.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

I dig good heist movies and with just about anything written by David Mamet, you can't go wrong.  Mamet writes good characters and scenarios.  Then you've got a great cast.  Hackman is always a hoot and whenever you throw Ricky Jay into the mix you know it's going to be a gas.  I've seen this a couple of times already and the veneer is starting to wear.  Don't misunderstand, it's a good film but now that I've seen it a few times the number of twists and turns starts to get a little dizzying by the end and that can get old. Anything Mamet is a must see if you haven't already. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Director: Jay Roach

Writers: Mike Myers, Michael McCullers

Composer: George S. Clinton

Starring: Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Rob Lowe, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Elizabeth Hurley, Gia Carides, Oliver Muirhead, David Koechner, Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello, Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Charles Napier, Kristen Johnston, Willi Nelson, Tim Robbins, Rebecca Romijn, Jerry Springer, Fred Willard

More info: IMDb

Tagline: First, he fought for the Crown. Now he's fighting for the Family Jewels.

Plot: Dr. Evil is back...and has invented a new time machine that allows him to go back to the 60's and steal Austin Powers's mojo, inadvertently leaving him "shagless".

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I love how this picks up right where the first one ended and the twist thrown into the mix which leads into Austin's (Myer) revelation that he's single again.  Then we get the credits dance with the Quincy Jones (Myer) tune, Soul Bossa Nova.  Oh, and the great 60s Bond-esque song that opens the film.  Great stuff.  I dig the direction that Dr. Evil and his son go with the introduction of Mini Me (Troyer).  Fat Bastard (Myers) is a character that's grown on me.  I didn't dig him much at first but now that I'm seeing it again after a decade, he's alright and pretty funny.  Will Ferrell still does not make me laugh.  Bringing on Rob Lowe to play the young Number Two was a stroke of genius.  Heather Graham is hilarious.  The tent shadow scene has me in stitches still. Damn, that's some funny shit.  I really like this one more than the first picture.  Now that we know and love the characters and universe, Myers and pals really stepped up the funny and took this to bigger and better heights.  Sadly, the third film doesn't measure up but that's another story.

The Mummy (1999)

Director: Stephen Sommers

Writers: Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre, Nina Wilcox Putnam, Richard Schayer, John L. Badlerston

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O'Connor, Jonathan Hyde, Oded Fehr, Erick Avari, Bernard Fox

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The sands will rise. The heavens will part. The power will be unleashed.

Plot: An American serving in the French Foreign Legion on an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Hamunaptra accidentally awakens a Mummy.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I really dig this movie.  It's not perfect, there are some slow bits at the 2/3 mark, but it's one of the better action/adventure movies that feels like a bit of a throwback to the big adventure films of the older days of Hollywood.  I love the back story of Imhotep (more, please), Rick's (Fraser) character for all of his goofiness, Jerry Goldsmith's menacing theme and the special effects (especially the sand storm face).  Then you've got a fun extended cameo with Bernard Fox.  The supporting cast is having a good time as well.  There's almost too much action and at just over two hours it feels a little long.  The humor, though, goes a long way in helping move this picture along.  Too bad the sequel didn't know when to quit. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Director: Jay Roach

Writers: Mike Myers

Composer: George S. Clinton

Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Fabiana Udenio, Mindy Sterling, Paul Dillon, Charles Napier, Will Ferrell, Clint Howard, Burt Bacharach, Tom Arnold, Lois Chiles, Carrie Fisher, Rob Lowe, Cheri Oteri, Christian Slater

More info: IMDb

Tagline: If he were any cooler, he'd still be frozen, baby!

Plot: A 1960s hipster secret agent is brought out of cryofreeze to oppose his greatest enemy in the 1990s, where his social attitudes are glaringly out of place.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Hilarious.  As a fan of 60s spy movies and a HUGE Bond geek, this is simply delightful.  The opening credits dance sequence is too much fun.  Myers was brilliant with these movies.  Not only with the acting and writing but of the universe and the sheer level of fun he and everyone involved brought to it.  The scenes where Austin (Myers) walks about the apartment naked with his twig and berries covered up by appropriately placed objects is hilarious.  I'm convinced that he took inspiration from THE LAST OF THE SECRET AGENTS? (1966) where there's a lengthy scene in a go-go bar with lots of topless women using the same device to keep the audience from seeing any naughty bits.  George S. Clinton's score deserves a lot of praise for reviving that 60s John Barry sound in the score and major points to whoever had the brilliant idea of using the Quincy Jones 60s tune, Soul Bossa Nova (what's become the Austin Powers theme tune). It's been ages since I saw this last and, after more than ten years, it's still holding up well.  If you dig this series then you MUST watch the James Coburn Derek Flint movies, OUR MAN FLINT (1966) and IN LIKE FLINT (1967), and you'll see a lot of where Myers took some inspiration.  Great stuff.