Saturday, January 31, 2015

V/H/S/2 (2013)

Directors: Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard

Writers: Simon Barrett, jamie Nash, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Evans, Jason Elsener, John Davies, Brad Miska

Composers: James Guymon, Steve Moore, Aria Prayogi, Fajar Yuskemal

Starring: Too many people to list.  Sorry, cast.

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Who's tracking you?

Plot: Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his house and find collection of VHS tapes. Viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be dark motives behind the student's disappearance.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I REALLY liked V/H/S (2012).  It was different and, what's more, the stories were well crafted and damn entertaining.  The wraparound story was weak but I'm not watching a horror anthology for the wraparound business.  The wraparound on this first sequel isn't as weak as the first film but it's got issues.  Again, I'm not watching this for that.  The best story was "A Ride in the Park" and it was the best by a good stretch.  I liked where it kept going, hitting one interesting beat after another.  The other stories were OK but there's little stuff with each one that bothered me enough to stop caring before it was over.  Some of these issues were present in the first film but the stories were told so well that I could overlook them.  Now these things are back in the sequel and they're totally unnecessary and bothersome. I'll watch the third one, hoping they try and stick to some semblance of realism (I'm getting sick and damn tired of seeing the images tweaking out like micro power outages or surges - it's getting fucking old and annoying as fuck).  I realize it's a difficult thing to pull off, using this found footage gimmick with the horror anthology. At least there was one story that was worth watching it for.  There's usually at least one. 

Blood (2012)

Director: Nick Murphy

Writer: Bill Gallagher

Composer: Daniel Pemberton

Starring: Mark Strong, Paul Bettany, Brian Cox, Stephen Graham, Zoe Tapper, Ben Compton, Natasha Little, Adrian Edmondson, Naomi Battrick

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You can't bury the truth.

Plot: Thriller charting the moral collapse of a police family. Two cop brothers, smothered by the shadow of their former police chief father, must investigate a crime they themselves have committed.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? No.

There's nothing fun about watching someone slowly breakdown during the course of a film, especially when the walls take forever to close in to the breaking point with one piece of bad news after another.  Well,  I guess taking too long to do would be worse.  I liked it OK and the performances are strong (good score, overall vibe, etc) but the pacing really hurts the film.  92 minutes feels like two and a half hours.  What makes it worse is that it doesn't seen necessary to take so long (even though it's relatively short for the type of picture this is).  Otherwise I liked most other aspects of it.  It's a very good story and I liked what the director was going for but the execution doesn't push the film like it needs. It also doesn't help that combining the pacing with the quiet, moody (but good) score and the overall dark and bluish color correction makes this an almost perfect storm for taking a nap if you're not ready for it.  I suppose I'd have to watch it again and really give it some thought into how it could be better.  I kind of want to just as an exercise but what the hell do I know.  I haven't shot a single frame of film for anything.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hitler's Children (2011)

Director: Chanoch Zeevi

Composer: Ophir Leibovitch

Starring: Bettina Goring, Katrin Himmler, Monika Goth, Rainer Hoss, Eldad Beck, Niklas Frank, Yael Bedarshi, Adi Piper, Samuel West

More info: IMDB

Plot: A look into the lives of the descendants of the top Nazi officials who worked under Hitler's command.

My rating: 8.5/10

I don't mean to sound like an advertisement for Netflix streaming but I love this service.  I get to discover all kinds of wonderful films that I normally might not find.  This is one of them.  It's absolutely fascinating on so many levels.  One thing that couldn't escape me, even after the picture had long finished, was how it must feel to be the offspring or close relative to someone who did such horrible things.  Think about that for a moment.  You're a small child.  Your father runs a huge death camp but all you knew of your time there was a beautiful home and garden (on the camp grounds), a privileged lifestyle and a loving family, not ever knowing what was going on just a few feet away.  Then suddenly the war ends and your father is tried, convicted and sentenced to death.  And now you spend the rest of your days without a father, not knowing until years later what the truth was.  All you knew of him was he was a good and loving father and husband.  Wow.  That's got to be a major kick in the balls. And then you spend the rest of your life trying to deal with that.  And to maker matters worse, people look at you with hate and contempt even though you had nothing to do with your father's sins.  That's just one scenario and there are several people in this documentary that have similar and varying stories.  One man has spent his entire life trying to find anything positive about his father.  Think about that one.  It's leisurely paced with a undercurrent of a subdued score.  The moment that will always stick with me is when one of the subjects visits the concentration camp his father ran.  A group was visiting at that time which included the son of a man who was murdered in that camp.  These two share a moment that is so powerful and genuine that no fictional film could come close to achieving.  Wow.  I'm tempted to buy the DVD but I can't find out if it has any extras.  I'd buy it now if it does.  I'll probably wait until I'm ready to see it again and get it (if it's no longer on Netflix, that is). 

Shooters (2002)

Directors: Glenn Durfort, Colin Teague

Writers: Louis Dempsey, Andrew Howard, Gary Young

Composer: Kemal Ultanur

Starring: Adrian Dunbar, Andrew Howard, Louis Dempsey, Gerard Butler, Jason Hughes, Matthew Rhys, Ioan Gruffudd, Jamie Sweeney, Melanie Lynskey, Emma Fielding, David Kennedy, Joe Swash, Ranjit Krishnamma, Nitin Ganatra, Walter Roberts

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In the tradition of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Plot: Gilly, fresh out of prison, and J, a hustler with a major drug problem, just can't shake their criminal ways.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Jeez, here's a grim picture.  While I didn't care for any of the characters (but I kept wondering if I was supposed to), it held my interest but only slightly.  Without giving it too much thought as to why I'm going to say it was the story that was lacking.  The performances were quite good for what the film required but none of the characters gave me a reason to like them or invest in them enough to get sucked into the story so that things mattered.  I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because the ending was fantastic.  It's bleak as shit and I really dug it.  Fans of British crime will dig it the most. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978)

Director: Leslie H. Martinson

Writers: Sherwood Schwartz, Elroy Schwartz, Al Schwartz, David P. Harmon

Composer: Gerald Fried

Starring: Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Judith Baldwin, russell Johnson, Dawn Wells, Vincent Schiavelli, Art LaFleur, Norman Bartold

More info: IMDb

Plot: When a decaying Russian satellite crashes on the island, the Professor uses a key component for a barometer. With that device, he learns that a massive wave is going to swamp the island. In desperation, the castaways lash their huts together into one structure in order to have any chance to ride the disaster out. The wave strikes the island and the hut is swept out to sea. Once there, Gilligan accidents starts a fire trying to cook a meal and nearly burns the floating hut down. Occupied with stopping the fire, the gang fails to notice that the smoke caught the attention of a naval helicopter who summoned a ship to rescue the castaways. In triumph, they return to Hawaii, only to learn that things have changed over the years and they will have trouble fitting in. To further complicate matters, two Russian spies are after that the key component that Gilligan now wears as necklace.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

As a kid in the 70s I loved this show.  A few years ago I watched the pilot, the first time I'd seen an episode as an adult, and it wasn't that bad.  It fared better than I'd hoped.  It's still a dumb show but there's something about it that tickles me.  That's kind of how I felt about seeing this for the first time in nearly 40 years.  Yeah, it's bad but it's also got some incredibly funny, laugh out loud moments and that really surprised me.  The business with the two spies (Schiavelli and the other guy) are cringe-inducing with the over the top broad comedy.  But what was funny were the individual moments we got with each of the main characters.  The Professor turning down sex with his hot students was priceless.  He's clearly a man of science. The same goes with The Howells, Ginger and so on.  The film knows exactly what it is and it gladly pokes fun of itself and the show that spawned it.  I can't recommend this to anyone who wasn't a fan of the 60s TV show but I can (with reservation) for those who have.  Oh, and the one thing that was REALLY strange was not having a laugh track.  That was bizarre.  Since this is in the public domain you'll be able to see it in any number of places for free online.

Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

Director: Tony Scott

Writers: Eddie Murphy, Robert D. Wachs, Larry Ferguson, Warren Skaaren, David Giler, Dennis Klein

Composer: Harold Faltermeyer

Starring: Eddie Murphey, Judge Reinhold, Jurgen Prochnow, Ronny Cox, John Ashton, Brigitte Nielsen, Allen Garfield, Dean Stockwell, Paul Reiser, Gilbert R. Hill, Paul Guilfoyle, Gilbert Gottfried, Frank Pesce, Chris Rock, Robert Pastorelli, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Heat's Back On!

Plot: Axel Foley returns to Beverly Hills to help Taggart and Rosewood investigate Chief Bogamil's near-fatal shooting and the series of "alphabet crimes" associated with it.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Sure, in another 20 years or so.

While it's not as good as the first film but it's got enough 80s fun to make it worth a watch.  Murphy is charismatic as hell and he's the biggest reason this picture is so likable.  Seeing Los Angeles they way they depict it in this flick is great.  It make you wish you had the dough to live out there and make a go at it.  The supporting cast is fun, too, as is the score.  Unfortunately the story feels like a rehash and a weak excuse to bring all of this greatness back together for another film.  But it's still a fun watch.  I hadn't seen this one since it came out and I'd forgotten every single thing about it.  I never did see the third one but it looks like it's got an astounding number of great character actors in it and it's directed by John Landis.  Even without that I'll probably see it eventually.  The Paramount DVD sports an anamorphic widescreen print and a few extras in the way of cast and crew interviews (22 minutes), the original behind the scenes featurette (7 minutes), a deleted scene (3 minutes), "Shakedown" music featurette (5 minutes) and the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Walk in the Woods (2015)

Director: Ken Kwapis

Writers: Bil Bryson, Michael Arndt, Rick Kerb

Composer: ???

Starring: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Nick Offerman, Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Kristen Schaal

More info: IMDb

Plot: When an aging travel writer sets out to hike the 2,100-mile-long Appalachian Trail with a long-estranged high school buddy, the duo learn that some roads are better left untraveled.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

This was the first film of day 2 at Sundance for me this year and it was also the film's world premiere.  Essentially there are three main characters in the picture, Bryson (Redford), Katz (Nolte) and the Appalachian Mountains and all three have moments of greatness except for the mountains which never fails to impress.  Nolte is hilarious.  It's been a while since I saw one of his more recent pictures (except for GANGSTER SQUAD (2012)) and he's looking and sounding rough; but that helps in this film.  Redford and Thompson mostly do a fine job but they each have moments when they display those family film expressions that look like they're acting more outward than inward.  It's hard to explain without showing clips or even images but you'll know what I'm talking about when you see it.  It might sound like a silly thing to point out but it happened enough to take me out of the picture for a moment or two.  Both of these actors otherwise do very well.  The story plays out nicely but it felt conflicted with its mix of drama and humor.  There are times it works well but then you get some really silly moments like when they stand up in their tents to frighten the bears.  Since this is based on actual events I will give them the benefit of the doubt that this scene is very similar to how it really happened but it's the way it's shot that feels like it's crossing a genre line rather than present it as something that, if it happened to you, it would be far too frightening at the moment but it would be something you could laugh about ten minutes after you're completely safe and you laugh to subside the adrenaline rush.  Oh, and there's the often used trope of shitty communication.  Katz has a small bottle of unopened booze in his pack and he'd told Bryson that he quit drinking.  After weeks on the trail, Bryson discovers the bottle and confronts Katz with it, condemning him yet Katz says nothing until much later (not in the film but in what it would be in real time).  It's only done that way to drum up some drama but it's phony and it's one more device that takes away from the potency of the film.  Some folks I talked to bitched about the ending.  I didn't care for it at first but it grew on me the more I thought about it.  It might've been handled a little better so as not to seem like a WTF, why did you do that kind of moment.  Overall, if you see this you'll want to see it on the biggest screen possible to take advantage of the absolutely gorgeous scenery.

A Mighty Wind (2003)

Director: Christopher Guest

Writers: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy

Composer:  song score mostly by Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean

Starring: Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Bob Balaban, Paul Dooley, Jim Ortlieb, Paul Benedict, Floyd Van Buskirk, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, Christopher Moynihan, Jim Piddock, Don Lake, Deborah Theaker, Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr., Larry Miller, Jennifer Coolidge

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Back together for the first time, again.

Plot: Mockumentary captures the reunion of 1960s folk trio the Folksmen as they prepare for a show at The Town Hall to memorialize a recently deceased concert promoter.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I absolutely adore Guest & pals' earlier film, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN (1996).  It's fucking brilliant.  That means that I'm on board with everything else they do.  I've seen them all a few times but I always go back to GUFFMAN.  A MIGHTY WIND is VERY funny.  Not only is it a great premise and story but the gags are all over the place and it's got a great original soundtrack.  These people are so talented it's scary.  The songs are fantastic.  Yeah, they sound like they came from the eras they're depicting but they're also very well-written songs.  "A Kiss at the End of teh Rainbow", as sung by Levy & O'Hara, is a beautifully touching song that plays an integral part in the heart of the film.  When we reach the climax, we're not sure how the song is going to go down and it makes for a very sweet and suspenseful moment.  My only real criticism of the picture is Levy's performance.  He takes the goofy too far.  I would have preferred that he toned it down a bit and not play it like a SCTV/SNL character.  Grounding that character more would have made this picture that much more special.  He does have his moments of funny but my eyes roll whenever he takes it too far.  The Waner Bros. DVD has a few extras with a commentary, 15 additional scenes with optional commentary, 4 "vintage" TV appearances by the fake groups The Folksmen and Mitch & Mickey (with optional commentary), the PBN TV broadcast of the concert (with optional commentary), the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen) and a soundtrack spot. 

Gamer (2009)

Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Writers: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Composers: Robb Williamson, Geoff Zanelli

Starring: Gerard Butler, Amber Valletta, Michael C. Hall, Kyra Sedgwick, Logan Lerman, Alison Lohman, Terry Crews, Ramsey Moore, Ludacris, Aaron Yoo, Jonathan Chase, Dan Callahan, Brighid Fleming, Zoe Bell, John Leguizamo

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In the near future, you don't live to play... you'll play to live.

Plot: In a future mind-controlling game, death row convicts are forced to battle in a 'doom'-type environment. Convict Kable, controlled by Simon, a skilled teenage gamer, must survive 30 sessions in order to be set free. Or won't he?

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Alright, judging from the trailer I knew this was an all out action movie but what I didn't expect was that it would have a pretty good just lacked going in the right direction (for me, that is).  I liked the concept.  I would have preferred they went more with the heady sci-fi angle instead of making this a straight action picture.  I was frequently uninterested and I never cared about the central character, Kable.  The performances were fine (Hall was hilarious and it was nice seeing him as someone other than Dexter and that "I've Got You Under My Skin" dance routine was outrageously fun) and the action was pretty good.  I don't know, I guess I kept thinking while I was watching it that it should have been more but I suppose that's not the filmmaker's fault.  It's a good looking film that I'm sure a lot of people out there really dig.  I'm just not one of them.  The Lionsgate DVD has a few extras including an audio commentary with the writers/directors and some of the cast, two making of featurettes that total around 45 minutes, the anamorphic widescreen trailer plus a few trailers for several other Lionsgate films.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mister Roberts (1955)

Directors: John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy, Joshua Logan

Writers: Frank S. Nugent, Joshua Logan, Thomas Heggen

Composer: Franz Waxman

Starring: Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, Betsy Palmer, Ward Bond, Philip Carey, Nick Adams, Perry Lopez, Ken Curtis, Robert Roark, Harry Carey Jr., Patrick Wayne, Frank Aletter

More info: IMDb

Tagline: All the Uproarious Fun of the Smash Broadway Play!

Plot: Mister Roberts is aboard a US cargo ship, working in the Pacific during the Second World War. He'd do anything to leave the quiet of the ship to join in the "action". Trouble is, the captain of the ship, is a bit of a tyrant, and isn't willing to sign Roberts' transfer requests. Also on board is Ensign Pulver, who avoids work as best he can, whilst living off the riches of his buying and selling. Roberts and the crew are in constant battle, even over the smallest of disagreements.

My rating:7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I've always been only sort of fond of this picture and it's because of the uneven humor.  There's a reason why the comedy is often too broad and that's because of the issues Fonda had with the original director, Ford.  Ford painted the comedy with broad strokes and Fonda, having played the role on Broadway, felt it was too much (I agree).  Ford was ousted and another director was brought in to finish the picture.  While I really dig the actors, the performances aren't in synch with one another.  James Cagney is playing this as a comedy and maybe just a little too much.  But at the same time he's also got all the weight of a first class actor to make his moments matter.  When he goes off on Roberts (Ford) he's a real tough customer and I cringe a little at the thought of working under such a bastard.  Ford does a great job of conveying frustration and his performance is almost a home run.  Then there's Lemmon who's the most over the top of the lot. But for my money, it's when he's playing it more serious and down to Earth that he shines.  The thing is, these three actors deliver a top notch performance but they're often playing them in seemingly different films.  The uneven comedy aside, the supporting actors like Powell and Bond do a fantastic job and they fit right in regardless of the film's tone.  And that ending hits me in the guts every time.  The Warner Bros. DVD comes with a few extras including a commentary track with Jack Lemmon, Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town (14 minutes) with Fonda, Cagney and Lemmon as they recreate some scenes from the film (REALLY neat), a 3 minute short film from the Henry Fonda Kennedy Center Honors and the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen).  It's a damn shame there isn't more but the Lemmon commentary sounds like it could be a blast.  Considering the production issues with Ford and such, this picture could use a solid making of documentary.  I think that could go a long way into making this picture easier to see for what various folks tried to make it. 

Saving Silverman (2001)

Director: Dennis Dugan

Writers: Hank Nelken, Greg DePaul

Composer: Michael Simpson

Starring: Steve Zahn, Jack Black, Jason Biggs, Amanda Peet, Amanda Detmer, R. Lee Ermey, Neil Diamond

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They swore nothing could come between them. Then she came along.

Plot: A pair of buddies conspire to save their best friend from marrying the wrong woman.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not, but I wouldn't be opposed to it.

I'm probably being a little generous by giving this a 7 but despite a lot of the silly, base gags, I laughed quite a bit.  Normally I don't care for such stupid characters but some of the shit they do and say was really, really funny.  It's a well-cast picture, too.  And holy shit does R. Lee Ermey steal every.single.scene.he'  Hilarious.  The Columbia DVD I've got has a few extras including a director's commentary, 4 minutes of outtakes (which aren't all that funny) and five trailers.  Considering how popular this movie is I'm surprised there isn't a loaded special edition available or even a Blu-ray. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Roxanne (1987)

Director: Fred Schepisi

Writers: Edmond Rostand, Steve Martin

Composer: Bruce Smeaton

Starring: Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich, Shelley Duvall, John Kapelos, Fred Willard, Max Alexander, Michael J. Pollard, Steve Mittleman, Damon Wayans, Matt Lattanzi, Shandra Beri

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Roxanne dreamed of a handsome, intelligent, romantic man. C.D. Bales is two out of three... but looks aren't everything!

Plot: Based on the play "Cyrano de Bergerac", large nosed C.D. Bales falls for the beautiful Roxanne while she falls for his personality but another man's looks.

My rating:  9/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

This is one of the best romantic comedies, hands down, and it's Steve Martin at his finest.  Martin's screenplay beautifully takes full advantage of his comedic (and acrobatic) talents.  It's just a giddily delightful picture.  And fuck is it funny!  The supporting cast brings it, too, and they're put in roles that fit them to a T.  The town they shot this in looks so cozy that I could move there in a second. ROXANNE is a modern fairy tale that has the right mix without sacrificing anything.  I LOVE it!

Unleashed (2005)

AKA: Danny the Dog

Director: Louis Leterrier

Writer: Luc Besson

Composers: Neil Davidge, Massive Attack

Starring: Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon, Vincent Regan, Dylan Brown, Tamer Hassan, Michael Jenn, Phyllida Law, Carole Ann Wilson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Serve No Master

Plot: A man enslaved by the mob since childhood and raised into behaving like a human attack dog escapes his captors and attempts to start a new life.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I watched the unrated version.  I don't know what that means in the big picture but it was fun.  Jet Li kicks ass. Bob Hoskins is a mean yet charismatic and likable mother fucker.  Morgan Freeman is being Morgan Freeman which means he's great as always. Kerry Condon is fantastic and she makes you fall in love with Victoria with all of her quirky traits.  The story's great, too, and a little different than usual.  I really dug it.  The action scenes are kick ass and I was glad to see they weren't filmed with that horrid quickly edited shaky cam.  This is a great looking, great sounding fun as shit movie.  It's a little over an hour and a half and it feels a little long but it's definitely not a deal killer.  Speaking of killing, there are a lot of nice little surprises in this film that I didn't see coming and I'm so glad I didn't.  The Universal DVD has three featurettes that total under a half hour and two music videos.  That's it but then, in this instance, just having the movie is enough.  Check it out.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Invisible Stripes (1939)

Director: Lloyd Bacon

Writers: Warren Duff, Jonathan Finn. Lewis E. Lawes

Composer: Heinz Roemheld

Starring: George Raft, Jane Bryan, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart, Flora Robson, Paul Kelly, Lee Patrick, Henry O'Neill, Frankie Thomas, Moroni Olsen, Margot Stevenson, Marc Lawrence

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Three Men and a Girl... Bound by Invisible Ties - Branded by Invisible Stripes

Plot: An ex-con who wants to go straight has difficulties trying to reintegrate into society while on parole.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably.

Man was it tough for felons in the 30s.  Cliff (Raft) couldn't get a break for nothin'.  He wasn't even allowed to own a car and then some. It was rough seeing him on the skids.  Interesting note, the woman who plays his mother, Flora Robson, was only 7 years older than he was.  She's got a rough enough face that they had her looking older but still.  Funny stuff that Hollywood joint.  Bogart's playing the same type of criminal roles he'd gotten used to that decade but something changed with the actor.  He's a lot more comfortable.  Before he played these one-note characters in such an over the top fashion that he'd sometimes come across as a bad, middle of the road actor.  Anyway, it was nice seeing him more grown up as an actor, like the star he became right around the corner.  There's no mistaking that Marc Lawrence.  Man, what a mug on that guy.  My friend had to point out that Cliff's brother, Tim, was played by William Holden.  I went through almost the entire picture not recognize him.  Boy was he young.  Geez.  Because this is a crime picture of this era you kind of know how it's going to end.  And it does.  The Warner Bros. DVD is loaded with extras including a commentary track by Alain silver and James Ursini, the theatrical trailer and a plethora of goodies with their Warner Night at the Movies which has a trailer for YOU CAN'T GET AWAY WITH MURDER, a newsreel, a 15 minute film called THE MONROE DOCTRINE, another short called MR. & MRS. JESSE CRAWFORD AT HOME, another 18 minute short called QUIET, PLEASE, a prison-themed cartoon called BARS AND STRIPES FOREVER and an early Bugs Bunny cartoon called HARE-UM SCARE-UM.  It's a great disc. 

Black Dog (1998)

Director: Kevin Hooks

Writers: William Mickelberry, Dan Vining

Composer: George S. Clinton

Starring: Patrick Swayze, Meat Loaf, Randy Travis, Gabriel Casseus, Brian Kelly, graham Becket, Brenda Strong, Rusty De Wees, Cyril O'Reilly, Erin Broderick, Charles S. Dutton, Stephen Tobolowsky

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The rules of the road are simple. Don't turn back.

Plot: An ex-con takes a job driving a truck cross country. What he doesn't know is that the truck is filled with illegal weapons and now he must fight to survive and save his family.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

You can look at this a couple ways.  On one hand it's a retarded, stupid action movie that's got some entertainment value or, on the other hand...hahaha.  Who are we kidding?  This is dumb fun but it's fun.  Anyone who mistakes this for a serious film that's got that social commentary angle that works so well at Sundance is either a bonehead or they've got their head far up their own ass. I knew going in that this was probably going to be ridiculously dumb but hopefully not without any entertainment value.  Fortunately Swayze took this role seriously.  That just adds to the fun.  Meat Loaf did not.  That takes away from it.  Randy Travis does a fine job for a guy I've only ever known as a musician.  Watching Dutton and Tobolowsky deliver their over the top lines with such ferocity cracked me up. I'd actually recommend watching this if you ever get the chance.  Knock back some liquor with your friends and kill an hour and a half with some dumb fun.  The Universal DVD has a good anamorphic widescreen print.  The extras are lame.  There's a 4 minute commercial highlighting the soundtrack for you to buy and then there's the theatrical trailer (non-anamorphic). 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Bronze (2015)

Director: Bryan Buckley

Writers: Melissa Rauch, Winston Rauch

Composer: ???

Starring: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Haley Lu Richardson, Thomas Middleditch, Sebastian Shaw, Cecily Strong, Dale Raoul

More info: IMDB

Plot: In 2004, Hope Ann Greggory became an American hero after winning the bronze medal for the women's gymnastics team. Today, she's living in her father's basement in her small hometown—washed up, largely forgotten, and embittered. Stuck in her past glory, Hope is forced to reassess her life when a promising young gymnast who idolizes her threatens her local celebrity status. Will she mentor the adoring, hopeful protégé, take her down, or both?

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? YES!!!

I caught this at the world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last Thursday night and I about lost my shit from laughing so hard.  The opening scene (no spoilers) sets the outrageous tone for the film and it is stupendously raunchy and funny as hell.  If that first scene doesn't make you laugh out loud then you should probably just walk away.  Hope (Melissa Rauch) is such a shit to EVERYONE that it's no surprise that the only friend in the world she has is her father, Stan (Gary Cole) and even his patience is wearing thin but you know he'll always be there for her regardless.  The cast is outstanding.  Really.  Haley Lu Richardson (as Hope's protege, Maggie) is so adorably likable that there's no reason to think she won't go anywhere in this industry but up.  She's delightful and the perfect opposite of Hope.  Thomas Middleditch fits his role of Ben, the co-owner of the gymnastics studio and burgeoning love interest of Hope (if that's even possible but it is).  And Sebastian Stan is hilarious as the good-looking former two time Olympic winner who has a history with Hope and is on track to steal Maggie away from her and get him into the spotlight.  There are too many actors to name that do a splendid job but these five are the ones we follow throughout the picture. 

It can't be said enough how raunchy and wrong (in the right way) Hope is.  Her personality is black but in that way that allows you to laugh and cringe at the same time.  When you break the story down to its basic elements, there's nothing all that new about it.  But it's how director Buckley handles it, the VERY funny script by Melissa and her husband Winston and the aforementioned talent in front of the camera that breathes severely entertaining life into a tired and reliable trope found in most sports movies.  There's a scene were two gymnasts get it on but in the way your wildest dreams would suggest considering their profession.  It's a close second to TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (2004) for being the funniest sex scene ever filmed.  WOW!  Tears, man, tears from laughing so hard.  The funny runs from start to finish and I do mean finish.  Listen to the lyrics Melissa sings in the closing credits song.  In the Q&A after the film (in the video above), they explain that Winston wrote the lyrics on the drive to the recording studio as they had just been informed that Melissa was invited to sing on the track.  It works beautifully and it's a great way to end one truly funny, FUNNY movie.  The worst part of seeing it this early is having to wait to buy it so I can see it again but more importantly turn my friends onto it and look like a rock star for doing it. 

The Thing with Two Heads (1972)

Director: Lee Frost

Writers: Lee Frost, Wes Bishop, James Gordon White

Composer: Robert O. Ragland

Starring: Ray Milland, Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier, Don Marshall, Roger Perry, Chelsea Brown, Katherine Baumann, John Dullaghan, John Bliss, Bruce Kimball, Jane Kellem, Lee Frost, Wes Bishop, Roger Gentry, Britt Nilsson, Rick Baker, William Smith

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They transplanted a white bigot's head on a soul brother's body!

Plot: A rich but racist man is dying and hatches an elaborate scheme for transplanting his head onto another man's body. His health deteriorates rapidly, and doctors are forced to transplant his head onto the only available candidate: a black man from death row.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No but I'll watch the shit out of that amazing trailer!

I've seen the trailer for this thing for decades, I've had the DVD for at least ten years and I finally got around to watching it.  I had a hunch it wasn't going to be anywhere near as entertaining as the trailer and I was right.  The best bits are in the trailer but they're still great and hilarious in the film.  Rosey Grier is hilarious.  His line delivery is really fucking funny.  He and Ray Milland make a great pair.  And how about Milland?  I've always dug how this Oscar-winning actor (and he's really a fantastic actor, BTW) did lots of science fiction and horror in his later years AND that he wasn't content on cashing a paycheck.  He really put a concerted effort into these 'cheap' roles and it shows.  The films benefit from it.  Anyway, he's a riot in this as well.  Like a lot of these low budget pictures, there's a LOT of padding.  You could easily cut 20 minutes out of this picture and it would only help it.  The big chase at the end goes on way too long.  If you like seeing cop cars crashing then you'll dig it but you'll still see it for what it is.  Despite the abundance of slow it's got some entertaining merit but not really enough to justify repeat viewings.  I'll settle for seeing the 'best of moments' in the excellent trailer. AIP must've had a hit with THE INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT (1971) the year before because THING came the next year.  They use the same techniques with the two heads effect.  The stories are different but they do have their similarities.  THING is the better picture with two great leads and more humor.  You can find them both on an MGM Midnite Movies double feature (hahahahaha).  It's a flipper disc.  The other film is anamorphic widescreen while this one is non-anamorphic widescreen which is fucking dumb as shit.  This one has a non-anamorphic widescreen trailer. 

The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971)

Director: Anthony M. Lanza

Writers: James Gordon White, John Lawrence, Ross Massbaum

Composer: John Barber

Starring: Bruce Dern, Pat Priest, Casey Kasem, Albert Cole, Danny Bloom, Berry Kroeger, Larry Vincent, Jack Lester, Jerry Patterson, Darlene Duralia, Raymond Thorne, Gary Kent, Mary Ellen Clawsen

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Two heads crafted on the body of a giant... The most fearsome living force ever created by man.

Plot:  Dr. Roger Girard is a rich scientist conducting experiments on head transplantation. His caretaker has a son, Danny, who, although fully grown, has the mind of child. One day an escaped psycho-killer invades Girard's home, killing Danny's father before being gunned down himself. With the maniac dying and Danny deeply unsettled by his father's death, Dr. Girard decides to take the final step and transplant the killer's head onto Danny's body. Of course, things go horribly wrong and the two-headed creature escapes to terrorize the countryside.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

This is the first of two AIP flicks that run with the gimmick of transplanting a second head onto a victim.  The other is THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972) which came a year later and it's a better film.  What you get with this one is Bruce Dern in an earnest performance.  I dig that guy.  I've never seen him phone in a role.  Of the two pictures this one is a straight up horror movie.  It's not as fun as the other but it's not as bad as the internet says either.  There are the predictable slow spots but it is entertaining with the interesting cast (Casey Kasen, Pat "Marilyn Munster" Priest and the impressively tall 7'4" Danny Bloom who plays the head/body creature) and there are a few non-bloody kills.  This one has more of a Frankenstein vibe but I dig that the other head is from a psychotic serial killer (looking like a freaky Warren Oates).  It's not all that bad and it would've been great to see this forty years ago at the drive-in (hell, I'd still go see it at the drive-in) but I can't see watching it again.  It's alright but, well, you know.  The MGM Midnite Movies double feature DVD has this on one side (anamorphic widescreen and with the anamorphic widescreen trailer) with THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972) (NON-anamorphic widescreen, also with the non-anamorphic widescreen trailer) on the other side.  I've had the DVD for over a decade and I'm glad I finally got around to seeing them both.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Welcome to Collinwood (2002)

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writers: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Composer: Mark Mothersbaugh

Starring: William H. Macy, Isaiah Washington, Sam Rockwell, Michael Jeter, Luis Guzman, John Buck Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Andy Davoli, Brett C. Leonard, Peter Veneziano, Jennifer Esposito, George Clooney

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Five guys. One safe. No brains.

Plot: When petty thief Cosimo is given the plan for the perfect heist from a lifer in prison - the kind of job you dream about - he has to get out of jail, fast. But with Cosimo stuck in the joint, it's up to his girl Rosalind to track down a patsy. But while no one wants to do the time for Cosimo's crime, everybody seems to know a guy who will - and for a share, they're willing to track him down. Before long, Rosalind has five guys trailing behind her, looking to get their bungling hands on a piece of the action.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

Produced by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney, this cute caper comedy has a great cast and they all do a fine job.  There aren't an awful lot of gags but the actors make the characters funny and enjoyable.  The IMDb trivia says it's a remake of the Italian film BIG DEAL ON MADONNA STREET (I Soliti Ignoti (1958)) which I've heard of.  I need to see it sooner than later.   The score to this one has that 20s/30s jazz vibe (like what you hear in the trailer) that stays through the film.  There were a couple of times where it felt awkward considering how serious things were getting on screen but overall it helps the film deliver an air of lightness and levity that any other score might not work.  The ending?  Well, it's different.  It's a fun picture that's loaded with great talent and it's fun to see one of the earlier pictures from the two brothers who wrote and directed the outstanding CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER (2014).  The Warner Bros.  DVD sports a nice anamorphic widescreen print with barely any extras but what's there is a 13-minute uncensored short with Sam Rockwell goofing around with the cast.  it's very funny.  The other extra is the anamorphic widescreen trailer. 

The Lost Boys (1987)

Director: Joel Schumacher

Writers: Jan Fischer, James Jeremias, Jeffrey Boam

Composer: Thomas Newman

Starring: Jason Patrick, Corey Haim, Dianne Wiest, Barnard Hughes, Edward Herrmann, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Corey Feldman, Alex Winter

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire.

Plot: After moving to a new town, two brothers are convinced that the area is frequented by vampires.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

I saw this way back when and it was OK.  Maybe if this caught me a few years earlier at age 14 I would have different feelings about it.  It's still just OK.  It's more style over substance with a bunch of pretty people looking pretty and living dangerously.  Grandpa (Hughes) is hilarious and I dig the carnival atmosphere.  The vampire gang lead by Sutherland got on my nerves.  They dress like what Hollywood thinks punks look like which is mostly idiotic.  It's also a film that's clearly a product of its time with the music, hair and so on.  There's some fun here and there which goes a long way in keeping this entertaining but there's also some meh every once in a while.  The Warner Bros. snapcase DVD has a flipper disc with the fullscreen version on one side and the non-anamorphic widescreen version on the other.  The only extras are text only and the anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer.  I'm sure there's a newer version that's better in every way.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)

Director: Michael Winner

Writers: Arnold Schulman, Cy Howard

Composer: Neal Hefti

Starring: Madeline Kahn, Bruce Dern, Teri Garr, Art Carney and TONS of famous names and faces you'll recognize from the early days of film and comedy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Introducing The Dog Who Launched 1000 Stars.

Plot: In 1923 Estie comes to Hollywood to become an actress, but the dog, that followed her becomes the star. But Hollywood has its own rules of success.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? I might if for no other reason than to try and spot all of the greats that I missed the first time around.

Is this good?  Not really.  But the reason you need to see this (that is, if you're like me and LOVE old Hollywood and comedy) is to see the tremendous amount of great character actors and movie stars of old like Sterling Holloway, William Demarest, Virginia Mayo, Henny Youngman, Rory Calhoun, Billy Barty, Jackie Coogan, Ricardo Montalban, Aldo Ray, Ethel Merman, Yvonne De Carlo, Joan Blondell, Andy Devine, Phil Silvers, Johnny Weissmuller, Rudy Vallee, George Jessel, Rhonda Flemming, Tab Hunter and on and on and on.  Plus it's set in Hollywood in 1923.  The dialogue from the leads is often pretty bad and it makes the film feel cheaper than it should.  Neal Hefti's score is hit and miss but all of that is offset by seeing one famous "once was" after another and a lot of them have some really funny bits.  This is why you should see it and not because of the story or anything else.  I had a grin on my face for over half the picture and I laughed out loud quite a few times.  It's currently on Netflix streaming.  This is definitely not a film for most people but then I'm not most people.

Beyond the Dunwich Horror (2008)

Director: Richard Griffin

Writers: H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Griffin

Composers Daniel Hildreth, Tony Milano

Starring: Lynn Lowry, Jason McCormick, Jeff Dylan Graham, Sarah Nicklin, Michael Reed, Ruth Sullivan

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A modern vision of ancient evil.

Plot: Kenny Crawford arrives in Dunwich after hearing that his brother Andrew has been admitted to a psychiatric ward, and is suspected in a string of disappearances in the town. With the help of local reporter Marsha Calloway and the eccentric Upton Armitage he probes the last few weeks of his brother's life. As they do so, they uncover evidence of a plot in the works revolving around Andrew, his girlfriend Nikki Hartwell and her twisted friend Otto Bellinger.

My rating:  3/10

Will I watch it again? No.

OK, so I'm on a mission to watch every film Richard Griffin has made since I saw his hilariously fun NUN OF THAT (2009).  It has not been a fun journey.  Yeah, they're all low budget but sometimes the acting is pretty good and there are times when a picture's got its moments of fun or at least well-handled.  This flick suffers from really poor pacing combined with a bland story and it doesn't help that it's a quarter of an hour shy of two hours long.  The main theme is good and the score has moments of Goblin-eqsue greatness.  That's really all I can say that's positive about it.  There were three of us watching it that night and we were all nodding off to sleep at one point or another.  At least the Camp Motion Pictures double feature DVD has the print in anamporphic widescreen.  The only extras are a director's commentary (which I will listen to someday if only out of curiosity alone), a non-anamorphic trailer for DARK NIGHT OF THE DEMON HOUSE (a film that doesn't exist) an an anamorphic widescreen trailer for the amazingly fun NUN OF THAT. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mysterious Island (1961)

Director: Cy Endfield

Writers: John Prebble, Daniel B. Ullman, Crane Wilbur, Jules Verne

Composer: Bernard Herrmann

starring: Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan, Gary Merrill, Herbert Lom, Beth Rogan, Percy Herbert, Dan Jackson, Harry Monty

More info: IMDb

Tagline: adventure! mystery! excitement!

Plot: During the US Civil War, Union POWs escape in a balloon and end up stranded on a South Pacific island, inhabited by giant plants and animals. They must use their ingenuity to survive the dangers, and to devise a way to return home.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

This one has some ups and downs.  The downs are the poor dialogue, performances (except for Lom) and some shoddily written scenes.  The good is, of course, the Ray Harryhausen special effects and Bernard Herrmann's score.  Harryhausen's stop motion work is always a treat regardless of what movie frames it.  One cool thing they did in this one was to take an actual crab, gut it and add the stop motion armature to it.  No wonder it looked so real.  The story is pretty ho-hum until Captain Nemo (Lom) shows up.  That's when it suddenly got better and a hell of a lot more interesting. Sadly that's only in the last 26 minutes.  The effects for anything but the stop motion are at times really shoddy.  Normally I turn a blind eye to it but there's such a huge divide between the stop motion work (OUTSTANDING!) to the incorporation of the matte paintings.  The models are great but when some of it is processed with the live action stuff it looks cheap.  I'm honestly not looking at this through the eyes of a 21st Century movie fan as I have a great deal of respect for these artists.  But there's something oddly cheap about this as if most of the money was spent on different aspect of the effects. Just look at how wonderful the effects were all around on JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) just two years later or even THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) which predates this picture.  Anyway, it was still fun watching this on a pretty big screen despite its flaws.  I'm going to cut loose with the Columbia DVD.  Maybe someday there will be a nice Blu-ray box set of these Harryhausen pictures.  I might give it another spin if that happens.  This DVD has trailers for MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD and SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (all fullscreen). The other extras include the three and a half minute featurette, "THIS IS DYNAMATION" (non-anamorphic widescreen), which seems to be on every Harryhausen DVD.  It's a great little piece about the effects from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD.  You also get the excellent featurette, THE HARRYHAUSEN CHRONICLES (58 minutes), narrated by Leonard Nimoy.  It's fullscreen and very informative as well as entertaining.  The last bit of fun is a 9 minute featurette on MYSTERIOUS ISLAND which is all Harryhausen talking about how they did what they did on this film.  He packs a lot of information in such a short time.  It's great.  This disc is highly recommended for fans of this kind of fantasy.  Even though the film has its shortcomings, the extras make it worth the price of the disc.

Royal Deceit (1994)

Original title: Prince of Jutland

Director: Gabriel Axel

Writers: Gabriel Axel, Erik Kjersgaard

Composer: Per Norgaard

Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Helen Mirren, Christian Bale, Brian Cox, Steven Waddington, Kate Beckinsale, Tony Haygarth, Freddie Jones, Tom Wilkinson, Saskia Wickham, Mark Williams, Andy Serkis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: His Quest for Vengeance... May Cost Him Everything.

Plot: This re-telling of Hamlet goes back to the original Danish source material. The opening scenario remains the same: Hamlet's father murdered by his brother who then weds the widowed mother. Hamlet must discover his strength and leadership that will allow him to regain his rightful throne. Don't expect an ending which matches the Bard's though, this is more like a true Viking epic.

My rating: 5.5/10

I'm going to get the good out of the way quickly.  The story, albeit simple, has a lot of potential cinematically.  The little bit of nudity is fantastic, including Helen Mirren's beauties.  Most everything else is about so-bad-it's-good.  But damn, look at the cast!!!  It's extraordinary how so many quality actors can be trapped in such a low-rent epic.  Shit.  It's not like the acting is all that bad but it's made worse by their meager surroundings.  Norgaard's score is actually pretty good.  There were moments that echoed Alex North's dissonant score from DRAGONSLAYER (1981) which took me by surprise considering how low budget this picture is. The foley for anything approaching a crowd scene is very weak.  The lack of numbers in the cast suggest that Denmark has no more people than a few villages and small ones at that.  Remember that scene in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975) "...and there was much rejoicing...yeahhhh" and how weak and frail the voices were that said, "yeah"?  That's how bad it is in this film only it's not played for laughs.  I don't hate this film despite what I've said, it's more of a pity than anything else. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Frost/Nixon (2008)

Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Peter Morgan

Composer: Hans Zimmer

Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Matthew Macfadyen, Oliver Playy, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, Andy Milder, Kate Jennings Grant, Clint Howard, Rance Howard

More info: IMDb

Tagline: 400 million people were waiting for the truth.

Plot: A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not.

What an interesting film. Having been a kid when the actual events were going on, I was oblivious to them, I never saw the Frost broadcasts and I never knew how they ended so this film had some surprises in store for me.  If you don't know how it ends then refrain from learning about it until after you see the film.  It goes a long way into helping build the suspense.  I don't know how accurate this picture is but everyone involved did a fine job in crafting a very suspenseful and entertaining flick.  The two titular leads reprised their stage roles and they both do a magnificent job.  The final broadcast, as depicted in the movie, is interesting as hell and I was hooked.  I watched the making of featurette (23 minutes) after I was done with the film which made it that much more intriguing.  The other extras on the Universal DVD include a commentary with Howard, some deleted scenes (23 minutes worth), 7 minutes of excerpts from the real interview and a 6 minute piece on the Nixon Presidential Library Museum.  The extras are good and they certainly whetted my appetite to watch the original interview in its entirety.  It's just one more facet of an incredibly dark time in American presidential history.

Pretty Dead Things (2006)

Director: Richard Griffin

Writers: Richard Griffin, Sandeep Parikh

Composer: Daniel Hildreth

Starring: Patrick Pitu, William DeCoff, Danielle Lozeau, Ashley Eaton, Ross Kelly, Salvatore Marchese, Jason Witter, V. Orion Delwaterman, Jennifer Scharf, Caleb Emerson, Donald Foley, Robin L. Watkins

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Death Never Looked This Good

Plot: Film star Jennifer Bond has everything a girl could want: looks, power, a dangerously sexy boyfriend - and an eternity in which to enjoy them. But as her 50th birthday draws near, Jennifer and her undead companions forge a trail mayhem to her hometown in search of the love of her life, unaware a recent victim is plotting a bloody revenge.

My rating: 4.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

If you've seen any of Griffin's other films then you might recognize a few faces in this one.  As per usual the acting is all over the place but most of the cast seem to be having a good time with it regardless of how annoying some of them are.  The opening credit sequence has that great 60s/70s James Bond credits vibe. It's a shame they didn't have a fun, cheesy vocal tune to match it.  I better slow down.  It's beginning to sound like I dug it.  I didn't on a whole but it has its moments like with the porn parody stuff and the over the top porn guru, Moe Blu.  Even though I don't hold these independent low budget flicks to the same standard as full blown big budget pictures, I do want to be entertained and this one barely qualifies.  It looks and feels cheap.  If you want to see the greatness Griffin is capable of, just check out NUN OF THAT (2009) and you'll see why I was so inspired to track down and watch every one of his flicks.  The Camp Motion Pictures double feature set (with another Griffin picture, BEYOND THE DUNWICH HORROR (2008)) has this film presented in anamorphic widescreen and the only extras are a director's commentary and 16 VERY low budget horror movie trailers either in fullscreen or anamorphic widescreen formats.  Some have some entertainment value and some are just plain bad.  As with even the worst of Griffin's films, I'm holding onto the DVDs so I can someday listen to his comentaries.  I'd like to think they're informative, better and funnier than the films they accompany.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Puppet Master 4 (1993)

Director: Jeff Burr

Writers: Todd Henschell, Steven E. Carr, Jo Duffy, Douglas Aarniokoski, Keith S. Payson

Composer: Richard Band

Starring: Gordon Currie, Chandra West, Ash Adams, Teresa Hill, Guy Rolfe, Felton Perry, Stacie Randall, Michael Shamus Wiles, Dan Zukovic, Jake McKinnon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When Bad Puppets turn Good

Plot: A young scientist working on an artificial intelligence project is the target of strange gremlin-like creatures, who are out to kill him and thus terminate his research. By coincidence, in one of the rooms he uses, there's a mysterious case containing the puppets of the "puppet master". When the puppets are brought to life, they help destroy the creatures.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Man, part 3 was great and my favorite of the franchise so far.  This fourth picture feels more like the second film.  It's got a handful of attractive twenty-somethings at the same giant old ass hotel and the puppets are loose to do some damage.  One big difference between this one and the previous films is the introduction to some underworld creature, Sutek, who sends his minions to the topside to stop anyone else from getting the 'secret formula' that makes the puppets come alive.  Now they killer puppets get their orders from a voice from the past to help destroy these little demons and save some of the kids from death. In the end the torch has been passed from the previous Puppet Master to the next one now that Sutek has failed.  It's OK.  Fortunately it's about 78 minutes long.  There was still room to cut but fans of the series shouldn't hate this one.  Sadly there's very little stop motion animation with more and more reliance on much cheaper (in dollars and aesthetics) methods of moving the little guys.  It has its share of slow spots but there's enough puppet action in the second half to keep the picture from grinding to a prolonged, screeching halt.  It's probably only worth watching if you're plugging through the series from start to finish.  Still, it's not that bad of a series when it comes to low budget horror franchises.  There are no extras on the disc.  This is from the Full Moon 12 movie collection that has the first 9 PUPPET MASTER films and the first three KILLJOY pictures. 

Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Director: Sydney Pollack

Writers: James Grady, Lorenzo Semple Jr., David Rayfiel

Composer: Dave Grusin

Starring: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow, John Houseman, Addison Powell, Walter McGin, Tina Chen, Michael Kane, Don McHenry, Patrick Gorman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The CIA knows him as Condor. What he knows about them has just made him an Endangered Species.

Plot: A bookish CIA researcher finds all his co-workers dead, and must outwit those responsible until he figures out who he can really trust.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.  Twice is fine.

I remember really liking this when I last saw it 30 years ago.  Now, not so much.  This time when it was over I was left scratching my head.  The film isn't all that hard to follow.  The ending with Joe (Redford) and Joubert (von Sydow) is great and the big picture is revealed.  The trouble is with what happens in the 60 minutes prior.  The setup is great.   Joe on the run and trying to survive is also well done.  Throwing a romance between Joe and his pseudo captive, Kathy (Dunaway), at times feels like a pipe wrench was tossed into the works.  Is this the fault of the film makers or of James Grady who wrote the novel it's based on?  Beats me.  I've never read the book.  The burgeoning romance ruins what is otherwise a good political thriller and to the point that I won't bother watching it again.  It's standard pulp Hollywood bullshit injected to sell more tickets to women.  That is unless that aspect plays that large of a role in the novel which was called Six Days of the Condor.  Maybe the romance was played down and there was a lot more non-love story intrigue in those extra three days.   I suspect it's somewhere in between ending with Hollywood sexing up the picture for gals.  I'm a big fan of the actors, director and so on.  It's not a bad film but it's not as meaty and satisfying as it could have and should have been.  The Paramount DVD hasn't a single extra and the widescreen print is non-anamorphic.  I'm sure they fixed that for the Blu-ray release. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chump Change (2000)

Director: Stephen Burrows

Writer: Stephen Burrows

Composer: Matt Cartsonis

Starring: Stephen Burrows, Tim Matheson, Traci Lords, A.J. Benza, Fred Willard, Clancy Brown, McNally Sagal, Jon Chardiet, Willie Etra, Abe Vigoda, Roger Clinton, Stefane Zamorano, Theo Greenly, Mandy Levin, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Fame, Fortune, Cheese, and Beer.

Plot: A failed Hollywood actor returns to his home town in Wisconsin and reminisces about his life in L.A. to a potential new girlfriend about his faults, auditions, misadventures, and confrontations with the evils of Hollywood.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

OMFG where has this movie been?  I laughed my fucking ass off.  It's a semi-autobiographical of writer/director/star Stephen Burrows' adventures in the movie industry.  The script is funny, smart and very good.  The actors he surrounds himself with are outstanding and I'm not just talking about the faces you know like Matheson, Willard, Brown and so on.  Lords is fantastic (and funny) and she's perfectly cast opposite of Burrows.  They've got great chemistry.  Part of that's the dialogue and the other is just how well these two actors get along.  Burrows is great and hilarious.  It's his show all the way but he gives everyone else their moments to shine. The comedy troupe he puts together with McNally Sagal (I LOVE her in this) and (I think) M.C. (Jon Chardiet) has a montage of a bunch of bits that will slay you.  The Transvestite Leave It To Beaver about killed me with laughter.  The Hollywood types (agent, publicist, studio head and so on) are made to be over the top but I can't help but think that there's a lot of truth in those scenes and performances.  I'm sure they can be that fucking stupid and ass-kissy.  Check out the Wiki or IMDb pages for Burrows and get some great background info on what this guy's done.  The Mirimax DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print and the extras include 7 deleted scenes (with optional commentary by Burrows), 4 outtakes (with optional commentary by Burrows), Burrows reading outrageous focus group comments for three hilarious minutes which goes to show how dumb focus groups can be, a director's commentary, a director's commentary on the director's commentary, a non-anamorphic widescreen trailer and a 12 minute interview with Traci Lords by Burrows.  It's currently on Netflix streaming.  This needs to better known.  Not only is it hilarious but it's sweet and it's got heart and not in that cheesy, forced way.  Highly recommended. 

North Dallas Forty (1979)

Director: Ted Kotcheff

Writers: Peter Gent, Frank Yablans, Ted Kotcheff, Nancy Dowd, Rich Eustis

Composer: John Scott

Starring: Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, Charles Durning, Dayle Haddon, Bo Svenson, John Matuszak, Steve Forrest, G.D. Spradlin, Dabney Coleman, Savannah Smith Boucher

More info: IMDb

Tagline: "Wait till you see the weird part."

Plot: A semi-fictional account of life as a professional Football (American-style) player. Loosely based on the Dallas Cowboys team of the early 1970s.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Be warned, this is not the comedy the trailer promises.  There are some light moments but you're probably not going to laugh. It's more of a sports drama than anything else.  The actors are likable and the film feels like it's going to be fun from the first few minutes.  The thing is I kept waiting for the story to start developing and moving in some sort of direction.  Take out the romance between Charlotte (Haddon) and Phillip (Nolte) and not much happens except for some behind the scenes NFL team hijinks at parties and the like.  Then, FINALLY, in the last 15 minutes, of the almost two hour picture, something happens.  Phillip is in a meeting with the team's owner, manager and so on.  This is where the awesome Dabney Coleman shows up for more than a couple of seconds and gets to stretch his acting legs.  There's a very heated discussion that takes place and this one scene says more than everything that came before it.  It's a fantastic scene and one I would gladly watch again.  The acting from everyone involved is fantastic.  But for the film, it's too late.  There wasn't much substance for the first hour and forty five minutes to justify the final fifteen.  Don't get me wrong, that last scene is a powerhouse of acting and writing and it's worth watching the film just to get to it but you'll probably feel like you ate a mediocre dinner with desert only to get the steak after everything else had been digested.  It's a great steak, though.  The Paramount DVD has no extras and the print of the film is non-anamorphic widescreen.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Interstellar (2014)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

Composer: Hans Zimmer

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Mackenzie Foy, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Timothee Chalamet, Bill Irwin, Anne Hathaway, William Devane, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Matt Damon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.

Plot: A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to ensure humanity's survival.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Probably.

I watched this a few weeks back in the theater so I'm likely to leave something out.  Alright.  I was not blown away like it seems everyone else was.  I really wanted to.  The big reveal at the end was mind expansive and I dug that but there was so much else that bothered me.  Cooper (McConaughey) clearly loved his daughter to the point of neglecting his son but that bit was sidelined to tell the story.  I thought Cooper was a benevolent asshole when it came to his relationship with his son and Cooper had not problems flaunting his love for Murph (Foy).  I'm not going to make this a bashing session at all and this will be brief but having had lots of time to reflect on the film since I saw it, lots of questions and irritating plot points have come to mind.  It seems like the more I think about it the more it reminds me of PROMETHEUS (2012) with how idiotic some of the dialogue and character actions were.  When Brand (Hathaway,  SCIENTIST!!!) says, "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space." I about lost it.  That might have been the moment where I started to enjoy the picture less.  Then other things started piling on.  I REALLY liked the big 'fuck you' that one of the leads ultimately revealed.  The effects were insanely convincing but it's the story that, while aiming for the Moon with its ideals, helped take the air out of the sails from what should have been a much more cerebral science fiction masterpiece.  Do you think it helps to have kids to enjoy this more?  On that note, I liked the robot and Bill Irwin's voicing.  His interplay with Cooper added some much needed fun.  I could have done without the typical Hollywood action business on that planet where you know who shows up.  It's almost three hours long and it felt it.  I will give it another chance someday.  Maybe my questions will be answered after that or maybe I'll realize that this really isn't as good as it should have been.