Friday, January 31, 2014

The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)

Director: Roger Corman

Writers: Edgar Allan Poe, Richard Matheson

Composer: Les Baxter

Starring: Vincent Price, Mark Damon, Myrna Fahey, Harry Ellerbe, David Andar, Bill Borzage, Mike Jordan, Eleanor LeFaber, Nadajan, Ruth Oklander, George Paul, Geraldine Paulette, Phil Sulvestre, John Zimeas

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Edgar Allan Poe's overwhelming tale of EVIL & TORMENT

Plot: A man, upon entering his fiance's family mansion, discovers a savage family curse and fears that his future brother-in-law has entombed her prematurely.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

I absolutely LOVE the atmosphere in this picture.  The sets are warm and inviting, Les Baxter's score and everything else.  The cast is fine, too.  The only thing that bugs me is the pacing.  This is an incredibly slow film.  Even at an hour and 19 minutes, it's too long.  It feels like it should be about an hour but that's not necessarily a deal killer.  In some ways, the drawn out pacing feels rather comfortable, like something you'd find yourself quietly watching on a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon and fall asleep in your recliner.  It's one of those kinds of film.  I dig it more than the last time I saw it probably twenty years ago so I think I'll give it another chance someday. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Sweeney (2012)

Director: Nick Love

Writers: John Hodge, Nick Love, Ian Kennedy Martin

Composer: Lorne Balfe

Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Drew, Hayley Atwell, Steven Mackintosh, Paul Anderson, Alan Ford, Damian Lewis, Caronline chikezie, Allen Leech, Ronnie Fox, Michael Wildman, Steven Waddington

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Act like a criminal to catch a criminal

Plot: Armed and dangerous, the Sweeney Flying Squad are old school crime fighters enforcing the law. Led by legendary detective Jack Regan and his loyal partner, they have their own unique way of operating and always get results. With a bank heist in progress and his old enemy making a reappearance on the London crime scene, Regan will do whatever it takes to get the job done, even defying orders from his no-nonsense boss.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Ugh.  I've seen an episode or two of the original 70s UK TV series and the two 70s theatrical films and I'm a huge fan of Ray Winstone so I was ready for a great & gritty action crime picture that was going to kick me square in the nuts.  It was close, only it was the numbing of my ass.  What's a few inches, right?   I don't have much good to say about this except Alan "Bricktop in SNATCH (2000)" Ford has an all too small role.  He should be in everything.  Winstone's gravely voice is mostly far too whisper quiet or yelling and he's fucking moody as shit and angry all the time. The look of the film is heavily color graded in blue and it's highly stylized and slick.  Their office is artistically modern and loaded with tech.  All of this goes against what made the near-40 year old show so good.  With the TV series, the relationship between Jack and his partner/friend, George, was fantastic.  Their bond felt genuine.  And what's more, they did it with a sense of humor, just one more thing missing from this 2012 film.  I doubt it did well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel and for that, I'm glad.  If you're going to remake a property, find out what made the original work so well and strive to keep that element alive.  Don't throw it all out and make something that doesn't even resemble it save for a couple of character names.  You might as well name it something else. Hopefully this will get folks to find the TV series and give it a go but this picture is so bad and off-putting that it might keep them from even considering it...and that, my chums, is the real crime here.  You've just been nicked.

Gun Duel in Durango (1957)

Director: Sidney Salkow

Writer: Louis Stevens

Composers: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter

Starring: George Montgomery, Ann Robinson, Steve Brodie, Bobby Clark, Frank Ferguson, Don 'Red' Barry, Henry Rowland, Denver Pyle, Mary Treen, Al Wyatt Sr., Boyd 'Red' Morgan, Joe Yrigoyen

More info: IMDb

Tagline: No One Man Could Stand Up Against Will Sabre---BUT NOW HE WAS FACING FIVE!

Plot: Dan Tomlinson, aka Will Sabre, head of a gang of outlaws, states his intentions to go straight but is warned by the new gang leader, Dunsten, that he has thirty days to come back to the gang---or else. On his way back to his hometown and girl, Judy, Dan picks up 10-year-old Robbie whose father has been killed. Dan gets a job as a bank teller and suspicion falls on him when a hold-up occurs and he doesn't use his guns. And, Dunsten and his former gang plants evidence to make it appear as if Dan cooperated with them. Dan is accused and now has to find a way to capture Dunsten and his gang, and clear his name.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Here's another routine Western Programmer B-picture that's not doing anything new but then that wasn't the point.  As long these were produced on the cheap, everything was A-OK with the studio.  Being Universal, this one, though, has better production values and a stronger cast than most.  George Montgomery makes for a nice lead as the former bank robber turning good.  That was a bit of a stretch (hell, he gets a job as a bank must have been his charisma that got him the job because the bank manager doesn't think more than a few seconds before giving this stranger a job!) but it ultimately works its way around so that there's the happy ending where the hero gets the girl and the kid (whose pa died at the beginning and he gets 'adopted' so to speak by Dan (Montgomery)).  There's a bit of action from time to time and the bad guys are really bad but there aren't any surprises or anything overly exciting.  It's a backhanded compliment but the best thing it's got going for it (besides Montgomery) is that it's not boring. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bedazzled (1967)

Director: Stanley Donen

Writers: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore

Composer: Dudley Moore

Starring: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Raquel Welch, Alba, Robert Russell, Barry Humphries, Parnell McGarry, Daniele Noel, Howard Goorney, Michael Bates

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their first starring comedy!

Plot: A hapless loser sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for 7 wishes, but has trouble winning over the girl of his dreams.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Probably.

I've been a fan of Cook and Moore for as long as I can remember.  While 2000 remake was cute, this original version has a level of charm that the remake missed.  The chemistry between Cook and Moore is undeniable.  Their quiet, polite playfulness goes a long way in the success of this picture.  The setups and gags are fun and it's always a hoot to see London in the late 60s.  Gee, I'd like to have been there.  It feels a little long at 103 minutes but it's still a good watch.  Cook and Moore are delightfully cast as the devil and his newest, hapless victim and, if for no other reason, you should watch it just for them.  Of course it doesn't hurt that Raquel Welch is crazy sexy and fun.

Adaptation. (2002)

Director: Spike Jonze

Writers: Susan Orlean, Charlie Kaufman

Composer: Carter Burwell

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Tilda Swinton, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Jay Tavare, Litefoot, Roger Willie, Jim Beaver, Cara Seymour, Doug Jones, Gary Farmer, Peter Jason, Curtis Hanson, Gregory Itzin, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Judy Greer, Ron Livingston, Brian Cox

More info: IMDb

Tagline: From the creator of Being John Malkovich, comes the story about the creator of Being John Malkovich.

Plot: An account of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's attempt to adapt Susan Orlean's non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, which is the story of John Laroche, a plant dealer who clones rare orchids then sells them to collectors. We see the action of the book as we see Kaufman struggle to adapt it into a movie. This is presumably a somewhat true story, as Charlie Kaufman is the real life screenwriter of Adaptation.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Nicolas Cage has had a VERY spotty career when it comes to hits and misses.  This is one of the few in the former category.  Playing twin brothers, he's an awful lot of fun.  The entire cast from Meryl Streep to Chris Cooper are having a blast and it shows.  The first two thirds of the picture a funny and quirky in that stream-of-conscious kind of way whereas the final third turns to drama but not without moments of humor.  Charlie Kaufman scripts are delightful.  BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999) and CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (2002) are all kinds of fun.  I really need to check out the rest of his theatrical catalog.  He and director Spike Jonze are a good fit.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wrath of the Titans (2012)

Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Writers: Dan Mazeau, David Johnson, Greg Berlanti

Composer: Javier Navarrete

Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rosamund Pike, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, John Bell, Lily James, Alejandro Naranjo, Freddy Drabble

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Feel the Wrath

Plot: Perseus braves the treacherous underworld to rescue his father, Zeus, captured by his son, Ares, and brother Hades who unleash the ancient Titans upon the world.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981) is outstanding.  The 2010 remake was an embarrassment.  The special effects were fine I guess but the action scenes they accompanied were lackluster and devoid of fun and excitement.  The creature designs weren't all that inspiring, either.  All of this is the exact opposite from the 1981 film.  Cut to this sequel, which I avoided because the first one was such a drag, and it's a big step in the right direction.

The creature designs are lots of fun and badass.  All across the board.  I loved all of them.  The CGI is fantastic.  I totally dug the creatures in the Underworld that slung liquid fire at their foes.  That was fucking badass.  It's little things like that that can give a picture that added oomph it needs.  The action scenes were fun, too, which blindsided me into pleasant submission.

Adding Ralph Fiennes to any movie is a bonus in my book.  He's great but not so much here.  Why give a role like this to such a prestigious actor and not give him much to do?  I don't get it.  Liam Neeson, like the first film, is bland.  Maybe he's just not suited to this kind of role.  Remember how much fun Olivier had with the character in the '81 film?  Where is that in these films?  Yeah, I know, my idea of Zeus is apparently different than Neeson's but he's just kind of blah.  Which leads me to Worthington.  He's back and he's bland.  He's not bad, per se, but he's lacking that little spark of fun and adventure that should accompany a character like that.  Stoicism isn't what was needed for Perseus. 

The ending battle went from 60 to badass as soon as two main characters decided to jump into the fight and kick some mythological butt.  I picked up the 3D Blu-ray at the flea market for 3 bucks which also had a disc inside for THOR (2011) in 3D.  I'm going to Craigslist that fucker but keep WRATH.  Not a bad deal.  The 3D is great and it's a huge leap forward from the crappy post-3D work done on the first film.  OK, so the acting wasn't great (although there were some fun characters and moments) and the story was simple but I really dug everything else which combined to make an entertaining and fun movie.  Some of that could have been my overly low expectations coming off the first film but I dug it and I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

Gangster No. 1 (2000)

Director: Paul McGuigan

Writers: Johnny Ferguson, Louis Mellis, David Scinto

Composer: John Dankworth

Starring: Malcolm McDowell, David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Saffron Burrows, Kenneth Cranham, Jamie Foreman, Eddie Marsan, Andrew Lincoln, Doug Allen, Razaaq Adoti, Cavan Clerkin, David Kennedy, Johnny Harris, Anton Saunders

More info: IMDb

Tagline: There can only be ONE.

Plot: A middle-aged crime boss smugly reflects back from 1999, narrating the brutality which made him triumphant - and feared. As an unnamed young hood in Swinging 60's London, he aped his mod boss Freddie Mays, and seemed to do anything for him. But his narration exposes all-consuming envy: of Freddie's supremacy, and especially his tall bird. The baby shark develops his viciousness and backstabbing, scheming to be Gangster No. 1.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

When I first watched this many years ago, I didn't like it.  I found it dull, lifeless with a poor performance by McDowell.  I must've had a bad day or something because now I really dig it.  The younger version of McDowell (played by Paul Bettany) isn't all that exciting, at least his character isn't.  Well, he's just not that interesting because he plays a bastard that wants to be No. 1.  He really doesn't have any redeeming qualities and neither does his older self.

David Thewlis (as the likable and charismatic Freddie Mays), on the other hand, is a fun character.  He's the one I'd like to see more stories about.  I assume that's intentional.  Maybe someday I'll listen to the commentary and watch the extras in the hopes that there are some bits of info that make this story more interesting.

The set design is great.  I would have liked McGuigan & pals to have done more would be to dirty up the film to make the 60s/70s bits look like they were shot then.  It's an interesting picture that builds to the moment when Freddie visits McDowell.  I liked where both characters were, psychologically, but more so for Freddie.  And then there's the very nice ending.  If you digs your British crime films then this is a no-brainer.  It's not great (I'm still not entirely sold on McDowell's hateful performance - it's a bit much) but there are some great things in it and it will satisfy fans of the genre.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Death Proof (2007)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Composer: None.

Starring: Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Rosario dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Rose McGowan, Jordan Ladd, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Omar Doom, Michael Parks, James Parks

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A White-Hot Juggernaut At 200 Miles Per Hour!

Plot: Two separate sets of women are stalked at different times by a scarred stuntman who uses his "death proof" cars to execute his murderous plans.

My rating: Theatrical cut 8/10, Extended cut 7/10

Will I watch it again? Theatrical cut, yes.

I caught this opening night as GRINDHOUSE (2007).  I loved the fuck out of the entire double bill with fake trailers.  The theatrical cut was 87 minutes but even that felt like there could have been a little more trimming involved.  It's sure as shit better than the extended cut that I finally watched that runs just over a half hour longer.  The problem is, I liked a lot of the scenes added to the longer version but when you take it all in as a whole, it's way too fucking long which diminished the impact of that balls-out amazing final half hour with that fuck-me-sideways great car chase. Kurt Russell is the fucking man.  When he looks at the camera shortly before we see the first kill, I'm in hysterics with laughter.

Like in every QT film, the performances are great and fun. The big surprise of the show is stuntwoman, Zoe Bell playing herself.  She's amazing.  Having her do her own stunts really sets this apart from just about every other movie with great car stunts and chases.  She needs to have my babies.  She's awesome enough to kill any dingos that try to take them, too...and with her bare hands!!!  Tarantino continues to pick great songs and film music cues to fill his movies with.  I always enjoy hearing his eclectic soundtracks.  Watching the extended cut was nice and all but so many of the scenes (no matter how much I enjoyed them) felt like they would be better serving the picture as extras but it's nice to have them both ways.  I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet someday and pick up the GRINDHOUSE (2007) Blu-ray and relive that wonderful experience I had all those years ago.

Never a Dull Moment (1968)

Director: Jerry Paris

Writers: John Godey, AJ Carothers

Composer: Robert F. Brunner

Starring: Dick Van Dyke, Edward G. Robinson, Dorothy Provine, Henry Silva, Joanna Moore, Tony Bill, Slim Pickens, Jack Elam, Ned Glass, Richard Bakalyan, Mickey Shaughnessy, Philip Coolidge, James Milhollin

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Meet the mob that set crime back 100 years!

Plot: Second-rate actor Jack Albany finds himself mistaken for fiendish killer Ace Williams and whisked off to master gangster Leo Smooth's fortified mansion. He is forced to continue with the charade what with all the rough-looking hoods around, even when he finds he is to play a deadly role in an art theft. But at least there is lovely art teacher Sally who could become an ally - if she ever believes his story.

My rating:6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

It seems like it's been ages since I saw one of these live action Disney pictures from the 60s/70s.  I grew up on these forty something odd years ago.  I need to dig up some of the ones Kurt Russell did back then.  That'll be a fat trip down memory lane.  Anyway, just look at the cast.  There are lots of great character actors in this, some of whom are my favorites.  I've now taken the time out to know this guy's name.

It's Richard Bakalyan and I've seen this guy in tons of movies.  He reminds me a lot of Dick Miller, another character actor that's been in lots of pictures.  Bakalyan worked a lot in Frank Sinatra's pictures and he also had roles in CHINATOWN (1974), and TONS of TV shows that you've likely seen if you've been around for at least 30 years.  The cast of NEVER is loads of fun.  The main reason I watched it was for going through one of my favorite actor's catalog, Edward G. Robinson.  He's in full on charming-as-hell-mob-boss-that's-got-a-caper mode and he's delightful.  He played that type of role a lot late in his career but he was so good at it. Dick Van Dyke is funny as shit.  The first 5 minutes during the credits had me in stitches.  He's hilarious throughout the picture as he tries to act tough when he clearly isn't.  This flick isn't trying to be anything than light family entertainment and on that level it succeeds.  I was there for the cast alone but I didn't expect it to be this funny.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Whiplash (2014)

Director: Damien Chazelle

Writer: Damien Chazelle

Composer: Justin Hurwitz

Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stwoell, Jayson Blair, Kavita Patil, Michael D. Cohen, Kofi Sirboe, Tarik Lowe, Tian Wang, Dakota Lupo, Keenan Henson, Marcus Henderson, C.J. Vana, Adrian Burks, Calvin C. Winbush, Rogelio Douglas Jr., Charlie Ian, Jesse Mitchell

More info: IMDb

Plot: Andrew, a promising 19-year-old drummer at a cutthroat Manhattan music conservatory, has little interest in being just a musician. Haunted by his father’s failed writing career and plagued with the fear that mediocrity just might be genetic, Andrew dreams of greatness. Determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps, he practices daily until his hands literally bleed. The pressure of success ratchets into high gear when he is picked to join the school band led by the infamous Terence Fletcher, a brutally savage music instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential. Under Fletcher’s ruthless direction, Andrew begins to pursue perfection at any cost—even his humanity.

My rating: 10/10

Will I watch it again? Yes!!!

Sundance Film Festival 2014

HOLY FUCKING COW!!!  This was the last film I saw at the festival and it was shown at Eccles, the best theater in the film festival.  I read the synopsis on the flight over and it didn't intrigue me even though I'm a jazz musician.  It's been getting a ton of positive buzz and, after winning the audience award and Grand Jury award for best picture, AND at the severe urging of my friend and reason why I'm even here, I gave it a shot.  Blown.  Away.  This is one hell of a movie.  It's like a psychological jazz musician thriller but it's not a traditional thriller.  This is some good shit.  This Miles Teller kid is fantastic and totally believable in the role.  J.K. Simmons, I knew he was good but god damn is he nothing short of balls-out amazing in this picture.  I'm really blown away at the performances, the severe head games played by Fletcher (Simmons) and the role music plays in this picture.  The finale is insanely moving and fantastic.  You know, one of those 'punch the air' kind of endings.  I will be stunned if neither of these men are nominated for Oscars next year.  I'm so glad I got to see this and I'm really pleased that it was my last film here.  It's a great way to end a great week of films.  For as good as every film was I saw, this one deserves my 10/10.  It's the 'must see' picture of the 'must sees' this year.

Love Is Strange (2014)

Director: Ira Sachs

Writers: Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias

Composer: Classical music score, no composer.

Starring: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson, Charlie Tahan, Darren E. Burrows, Christian Coulson, Harriet Sansom Harris, Adriane Lenox, John Cullum

More info: IMDb

Plot: After 39 years together, Ben and George finally tie the knot in an idyllic wedding ceremony in lower Manhattan. But when news of their marriage reaches the Catholic school where George works, he is fired from his longtime job, and the couple can no longer afford their New York City apartment. As a temporary solution, George moves in with the two gay cops next door, while Ben moves to Brooklyn to live with his nephew, Eliot; Eliot’s wife, Kate; and their teenage son. As Ben and George struggle to secure a new apartment, the pain of living apart and their presence in two foreign households test the resilience and relationships of all involved.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah.

Sundance Film Festival 2014

Man, I'm really digging these 'slice of life' pictures that don't fill in all the blanks, hold your hand and give you resolutions to everything and every character introduced.  I've seen a couple of pictures like that here at Sundance this week.  The performances are great and I dug the situations these characters found themselves in.  It was kind of strange that Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) had to split up in order to still live in NYC but just run with it.  There's a scene I, and just about everyone I think, related to.  Kate (Tomei) is trying to work (she's writing another book) and Ben (her husband's uncle) won't shut the fuck up and let her work.  He's just throwing out small talk but he's not picking up on the signals she's throwing out.  It's a brilliant scene in that it plays out just like it has for me over and over again. I got that weird feeling watching it.  The ending is beautiful and it might leave you asking questions but the answers don't matter because either way, it works out.  It's a beautifully poetic close to a sweet and caring film.

Fishing Without Nets (2014)

Director: Cutter Hodierne

Writers: Cutter Hodierne, David Burkman, Sam Cohan, John Hibey

Starring: Abdiwali Farrah, Eric Godon, Abdikhadir Hassan, Idil Ibrahim, Abdi Kani, Reda Kateb, Abu Bakr Mirre, Abdikhadir Mukhtar, Abdikani Muktar, Abdi Siad

More info: IMDb

Plot: In Somalia, principled, young husband and father Abdi turns to piracy to support his family. While his wife and child wait for him in Yemen, an outdated and fragile satellite phone is his only connection to all he truly values. Abdi and his fellow pirates hit the high seas and capture a French oil tanker, demanding a hefty ransom. During the long, tedious wait for the cash to arrive, Abdi forges a tentative friendship with one of the hostages. When some of the pirates resort to violence, Abdi must make dramatic choices to determine his course.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

Sundance Film Festival 2014

This is it.  It's the first picture on the last day of the festival...and it's a good one.  It was said at the awards ceremony last night that the director did not understand the language.  That makes this picture even more remarkable  as there is very little spoken English.  There are subtitles all over the place though so no worries there.  It's a very good thriller that goes into some interesting directions.  All I knew going in was that it was a Somali pirate hijacking but told from the pirate point of view.  The characters we follow are interesting.  What's even better is the ending.  Holy cow!!!  I'm now more inclined to see CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) than before and it you've seen CP, you're going to want to see this picture.  I have a feeling they might compliment each other.

Sundance Film Festival 2014 Day 7

Now that I had the Sexy Pass, I was getting in to everything I wanted.  After getting home late last night from the midnight showing of YOUNG ONES I got my 5 hours of sleep, packed my bags and headed over to the morning show of FISHING WITHOUT NETS (GREAT flick), then it was a sweet, emotional ride with LOVE IS STRANGE (I babied out at the end of this one) and I finished with WHIPLASH, the film that won both the Audience award for best film and the Dramatic Competition Grand Jury award.  I can see why.  It's been one hell of a day at the movies with the best film (it deserves all of the attention it's getting) closing out the festival for me and in the best theater (Eccles).  I couldn't have asked for a better finish. 

Young Ones (2014)

Director: Jake Paltrow

Writer: Jake Paltrow

Composer: Nathan Johnson

Starring: Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Andy McPhee, Aimee Mullins, Alex McGregor, Robert Hobbs, Liah O'Prey, Carel Nel

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Not all children have a childhood

Plot: Set in a near future when water has become the most precious and dwindling resource on the planet, one that dictates everything from the macro of political policy to the detailed micro of interpersonal family and romantic relationships. The land has withered into something wretched. The dust has settled on a lonely, barren planet. The hardened survivors of the loss of Earth's precious resources scrape and struggle. Ernest Holm (Shannon) lives on this harsh frontier with his children, Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Mary (Fanning). He defends his farm from bandits, works the supply routes, and hopes to rejuvenate the soil. But Mary's boyfriend, Flem Lever (Hoult), has grander designs. He wants Ernest's land for himself, and will go to any length to get it.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Sundance Film Festival 2014

This is kind of a futuristic, sci-fi Western but then not so much.  While it's all of those things, it's also mostly a story of revenge on a couple of levels as well as a father's opposing relationships with his daughter and son.  I really dug it.  Paltrow (yes, he's Gwyneth's brother) does a wonderful job of making this little world the characters are playing in really, really dusty, dry and devoid of moisture.  I mean a really good job.  I was drinking a Coke during the movie but I found myself strongly craving water.  Really.  Michael Shannon gives a good, subdued performance which works nicely.  Hoult plays the bastard that fucks with him (and fucks his daughter).  Fanning doesn't have an awful lot to do but Smit-McPhee puts in the surprise performance of the picture.  He's great and he's 18 playing a 14 year old.  Hmmmmm.  We had something like that in another Sundance film this year, COPENHAGEN (2013) with a knockout performance from an 18 year old playing a 14 year old.  Well, he's very good and his character brings the picture around and wraps things up.  I'm looking forward to seeing this again and hopefully on an extras-laded DVD.

Sundance Film Festival 2014 Day 6

It looked like another long day stuck at the house until I got the call that I was going to the awards ceremony hosted by Nick Offerman & Megan Mullally!!!  They were fucking hilarious and raunchy.  They sang a song about Sundance called, "Weed and Pussy".  Classic.  They talked a lot about their sex life, having sex while watching independent films and that Megan's vagina is named, Robert Redford's Face.  Nick and Megan are married, see.  They were loads of fun.  Once it got started the ceremony moved along quickly.  Afterward I got my hands on what I call the Sexy Pass.  It's a pass that gets you into any film without a ticket AND you get to bypass the long ticket line and get to the front of the line.  SWEET!!!  It's too bad I didn't have this a few days ago.  I would have made 4 movies a day, easy.  By the time the ceremony was over there was only time for one film and that was the midnight showing of YOUNG ONES, a futuristic flick starring the always amazing, Michael Shannon.  Tomorrow (Sunday) I've got three more flicks lined up for the final day of the festival. Oh, and it turns out I don't have a cold but have altitude sickness and the asprin I've been taking today did the trick.  I'm feeling better but not quite 100%.  It's a start.

Next of Kin (1989)

Director: John Irvin

Writer: Michael Jenning

Composer: Jack Nitzsche

Starring: Patrick Swayze, Liam Neeson, Adam Baldwin, Helen Hunt, Andreas Katsulas, Bill Paxton, Ben Stiller, Michael J. Pollard, Ted Levine, Del Close, Valentino Cimo, Paul Greco

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A man murdered in cold blood. But they didn't count on his brother's revenge!

Plot: Truman, a Chicago cop, sets out to find the killer of his brother. Meanwhile, another of his brothers, Briar (a hillbilly) decides to find the killer himself.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

When I saw the opening credits loaded with all kinds of fun actors I was certain I was in for a good time.  As they quickly came onto the screen it was getting better and better...that is until some of them died off pretty early.  Bummer.  It's not a bad little revenge picture and having a cast like this really helps sell it.  I'm a sucker for flicks that have folks being hunted down and killed in the woods and I was disappointed that this wasn't one of them.  You know, the bad guy city gangsters find themselves in the hills of Kentucky being chased down by hound dogs and bare-footed hillbillies.  Instead it almost all takes place in Chicago.  The ending is pretty silly but it is entertaining.  The real fun is seeing a lot of young faces of top current actors.  Oh, and seeing Patrick Swayze play a Chicago cop that dresses like Indiana Jones. 

The Honeymoon Killers (1969)

Director: Leonard Kastle

Writer: Leonard Kastle

Composer: classical works of Gustav Mahler

Starring: Shirley Stoler, Tony Lo Bianco, Mary Jane Higby, Doris Roberts, Kip McArdle, Marilyn Chris, Dortha Duckworth, Barbara Casaon, Ann Harris, Mary Breen, Elsa Raven, Mary Engel, Guy Sorel, Michael Haley, Diane Asselin, William Adams, Eleanor Adams

More info: IMDb

Tagline: One of the most bizarre episodes in the annals of American Crime.

Plot: An obese, embittered nurse doesn't mind if her toupee-wearing boyfriend romances and fleeces other women, as long as he takes her along on his con jobs.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

This is a great little flick that any fan of serial killer or true crime movies needs to see.  Making a double feature night with this and then DERANGED (1974) would be a night I wouldn't pass up.  The black and white photography is fantastic.  Kastle does a great job of working with the actors to get real and natural performances.  The leads are great.  Stoler as Martha makes for a wonderful, jealous bitch and Lo Bianco does his tightrope act of balancing getting the successful con game and handling Martha.  The classical music works but I'd love to have had a good Bernard Herrmann score instead.  The kills are light in the first half of the flick.  It's not until the final half hour or so where the bodies start to pile up and that's where the payoff is.  In one kill, and this is one of the greatest unseen kills ever, there's a closeup on the victim's face and you hear the killers talk about offing her.  One of them tells the other the whereabouts of a gun owned by the victim.  They get the gun, all the while we're just seeing the horrified face of the victim, place it to her head and just after the camera pans away from her face, a shot is heard.  Brilliant.

I've seen this one a few times now and the only thing that gets me in a negative way is the pacing.  I REALLY like this film but I usually end up losing a little interest around the two thirds mark which is strange considering the great finale.  Maybe it's the length in the setup or maybe it's because I usually start watching this one too late at night.  I took the time last night to check out some of the extras on the Criterion DVD and I discovered that the real Martha (this is based on the true story of the killing spree brought on by Martha and Ray in the 1940s) was born about ten miles from my house.  Cool.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Clerks (1994)

Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Scot Mosier, Scott Schiaffo, Al Berkowitz, Walter Flanagan, Ed Hapstak, Lee Bendick, David Klein, Pattijean Csik, Ken Clark, Donna Jeanne, Virginia Smith

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Just Because They Serve You... Doesn't Mean They Like You.

Plot: A day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal as they annoy customers, discuss movies, and play hockey on the store roof.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Of course.

Sundance Film Festival 2014

OK, so get this.  It's the midnight, and only, screening of CLERKS (1994), celebrating its 20th anniversary of the film's premiere.  Kevin Smith takes the stage and the crowd goes nuts.

He tells everyone that we're going to do the Q&A, that's normally done after the movie, before since it's midnight and everyone's probably seen the film so they can ditch it in the middle and go home to sleep and not miss anything.  Before the questions start he talks about this couple that, during the Class of '94 panel discussion earlier that day, asked if he could marry them.  He brings Dillon (20) and Nicole (20) on stage and officiates their wedding.  It lasted a few short, funny minutes and off the happy couple go.  Smith is an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, something anyone can do for probably five bucks.  It's nice when these unexpected things pop up like this.

Now Kevin talks about his experience with screening the film at Sundance 20 years ago and how the fourth and final screening was here at The Egyptian.  He knew his film was dead in the water at that point but he had someone there (the name escapes me) that was a big champion of the film and talked Harvey Weinstein into attending.  After the show Kevin was told to meet Harvey across the street at a restaurant where Harvey offered to buy the picture.  Kevin Smith's film career was made that night.  It was a touching story and Kevin got very emotional a couple of times, starting to tear up.  I'm sure the everyone else there (it was packed with a 266 seat capacity) was welling up, too, like I was.  It's a great story.  But then something else was thrown into the mix, something unexpected...Kevin brings CLERKS star, Brian O'Halloran (Dante), onto the stage.  The crowd goes nuts.  We only knew Kevin would be there.  Brian spends a few minutes with some anecdotes about his experience with Sundance 20 years ago, filled with laughs.  But wait...there's more....

Kevin brings up Jason Mewes, another unexpected guest, to the stage.  The audience is apeshit at this point but there's no Jason.  A couple of minutes later he runs onto the stage and says he was in the bathroom taking a piss and makes a motion that he was jerking off.  Fucking hilarious.

20 years ago, at the premiere, Kevin was the only one flown out by Sundance, so Kevin and pals had to scrape what little dough they had to bring anyone from the film out.  Unfortunately Jason wasn't able to make it but it's great now that he's here 20 years later.  The three of them crack jokes and reminisce for a few minutes and then the floor is opened to questions.  The biggest one of the night was a nice surprise.  Kevin will begin shooting CLERKS 3 this April 7.  He's currently waiting on budget approval from Weinstein but Kevin added that if he doesn't approve it, they have someone ready to finance the film for them but rest assured, they begin filming in a little more than two months.  Great news.  Smith is typically long winded and will take twenty minutes to answer a single question but last night he burned through five or six in 10-15 minutes.  Impressive.  They were given the 'get the fuck off the stage 'cause we're out of time and way past overdue to show the film' motion.  They took some photos and the movie began.

Oh, geez, I'm supposed to review the picture.

 It's a great fucking movie!

Sundance Film Festival 2014 Day 5

Not much happened today.  Being sick at a film festival sucks balls.  I don't feel like doing much of anything.  I suppose resting is the best thing for me now.  But nothing was going to stop me from seeing the 20th anniversary screening of CLERKS (1994) at the Egyptian Theatre hosted by Kevin Smith.  What made it even better is Kevin started the Q&A before the film began since it started at midnight.  He brought up a couple that wanted him to officiate their wedding which was awesome.  Then he brought up CLERKS stars Brian O'Halloran and Jason Mewes.  It was fun to say the least.  And, of course, the movie was great and it was my first time seeing it on the big screen.  So my uneventful day ended with a bang.  Lovin' it.

Kevin Smith Marries Couple at Sundance on the 20th Anniversary of Clerks Premiere!!!

Sundance Film Festival 2014

Here's something kick-ass cool as shit.  It was 20 years ago that Kevin Smith's career was born with the premiere of his first film, CLERKS (1994).  At the Egyptian Theatre last night at midnight for the anniversary screening, Smith did his Q&A before the film and began by calling up a couple that had, earlier that day, asked Smith at the Class of '94 panel to marry them as he is an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church.  Smith called them up on the stage to officiate their wedding.  Dillon (20) and Nicole (20), who were born just 7 days apart, exchanged the brief and funny vows Smith had prepared.  The 266 seat auditorium was packed with an enthusiastic and cheerful audience.

Congratulations, kids!

Alice (1990)

Director: Woody Allen

Writer: Woody Allen

Composer: None.

Starring: Mia Farrow, Joe Mantegna, William Hurt, June Squibb, Marceline Hugot, Dylan O'Sullivan Farrow, Matthew H. Williamson, Julie Kavner, Keye Luke, Judy Davis, Cybill Shepherd, Alec Baldwin, Blythe Danner, James Toback, Bernadette Peters, Elle Macpherson, Bob Balaban

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A younger man and a bolder woman

Plot: Alice Tate, mother of two, with a marriage of 16 years, finds herself falling for the handsome sax player, Joe. Stricken with a backache, she consults Dr. Yang, an oriental herbalist who realizes that her problems are not related to her back, but in her mind and heart. Dr. Yang's magical herbs give Alice wondrous powers, taking her out of well-established rut.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I love Woody Allen films.  They're refreshing.  The pacing, the witty banter, the great bouncy, jazzy soundtracks, the performances and delightful actor...the works.  He's got a unique voice that's distinctly his and no one can compare to him.  Thing is, I've only seen a handful of his pictures that he's made in the past twenty years.  I'm more familiar with the first half of his career.  He made some of the funniest films of the 70s but the funny never stopped.  He's written and directed nearly one film a year since 1966.  Chew on that for a minute.  Like a lot of his output in the past thirty plus years, ALICE is a light comedy romance with lots of funny and unexpected, quirky moments.  Mia Farrow embodies Alice like no once else could. She's fun.  With any Woody Allen picture, the cast is great.  I love the songs and the frequent use of absurdity like with Alice's meetings with Dr. Yang and her magical interludes.  It's a funny film.  Gee, how I wish I were rich and lived in New York City, playing out my fun-filled days existing in a Woody Allen picture...Sigh.