Thursday, April 23, 2015

Journey Into Fear (1943)

Director: Norman Foster, Orson Welles

Writers: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Eric Ambler, Richard Collins, Ben Hecht

Composer: Roy Webb

Starring: Joseph Cotten, Dolores del Rio, Ruth Warrick, Agnes Moorehead, Jack Durant, Everett Sloane, Eustace Wyatt, Frank Readick, Edgar Barrier, Jack Moss, Stefan Scnabel, Hans Conried, Robert Meltzer, Richard Bennett, Orson Welles

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Welles and Del Rio together! as Terror Man vs. Leopard Woman--for possession of a mysterious stranger in the powder-keg Middle East...a man with a military secret worth more than his love and his life!...It's menace melodrama thrilled with mighty mystery and suspense...SEE IT!

Plot: A Navy engineer returning to the U.S. with his wife from a conference finds himself pursued by Nazi agents who are out to kill him. Without a word to his wife, he flees the hotel the couple is staying in and boards a ship only to find, after the ship sails, that the agents have followed him.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Hmmmm.  It's not a bad film by any means but it's not really all that great.  It's missing something or a lot of somethings.  It starts off with a bang and moves at a nice clip.  It's fun watching Howard (Cotten) get whisked away from his wife and somehow end up on a ship without his getting a word out to his wife where he is.  I can see how easily it can happen and it was fun seeing Howard get the runaround.  We can clearly see what's happening but he's in the middle of it and he's barely has time to make sense of it all.  Orson Welles is in it a little and he's a load of fun to watch.  What's weird is that there should have been more to the story.  It's only 68 minutes long which works to a degree but it would have been nice to stick around longer.  Maybe the studio forced the time limit.  Maybe there was more to tell but the film makers were restricted.  Beats me. I'm certainly happy to have seen it now but it's not something I'll be revisiting.  There are far too many other film noirs and thrillers from the forties that I haven't gotten to yet. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hooper (1978)

Director: Hal Needham

Writers: Thomas Rickman, Bill Kerby, Walt Green, Walter S. Herndon, James Best

Composer: Bill Justis

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Jan-Michael Vincent, Sally Field, Brian Keith, John Marley, Robert Klein, James Best, Adam West, Alfie Wise, Terry Bradshaw, Norman Grabowski, George Furth, Jim Burk, Don 'Red' Barry, Robert Tessier

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It just ain't summer without Burt!

Plot: Aging stuntman Sonny Hooper is still on top as one of the best stuntmen in the business. But up and coming Ski is starting to do bigger and better stunts. Hooper has the experience to setup a stunt safely, and Ski lacks the common sense to know when a stunt is too dangerous. Maybe together, along with their fun loving buddies, they can do a stunt together that will surpass anything that anyone has done.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yup.

I bought this as a blind buy on Blu-ray (it was under ten bucks and it was released a couple of weeks ago in widescreen for the first time).  I normally don't do that but I figured the price was right and the cast and crew were people I really dig and it's from an era of fun movie making that I'm particularly fond of.  The sweet thing is I was right to do so.  It's a really fun flick.  It's Burt, Sally and Hal riding off the surprise hit high of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977) and it looks like everyone is having a great time.  I was really surprised by how the professional relationship between Hooper (Reynolds) and Ski (Vincent) stayed healthy through the end.  Usually you'd have a young upstart come in and try and one-up and squeeze the old guy out but not this picture.  There's a genuine admiration from the young guy to the older one and it was refreshing. There are lots of great stunts (as you'd expect) ending with the huge stunt-laden sequence at the end.  SMOKEY gets a bit too silly for me but this film feels a lot more grounded in reality (and I do realize that stunts are a lot more calculated than how easily they perform them in this picture) and it's nice to see Burt-in-his-prime in a film I hadn't seen before.  The Warner Bros. Blu-ray has a great looking transfer that feels 1970s but the only extra is a fullscreen trailer.  That's right, a fullscreen trailer.  That's just pathetic on two fronts. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The X Files: I Want to Believe (2008)

Director: Chris Carter

Writers: Frank Spotnitz, Chris Carter

Composer: Mark Snow

Starring: David Duchovny, Gilliam Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Xzibit, Mitch Pileggi, Callum Keith Rennie, Adam Godley, Stephen E. Miller

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Believe Again

Plot: Mulder and Scully are called back to duty by the FBI when a former priest claims to be receiving psychic visions pertaining to a kidnapped agent.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

While I've probably only seen the first couple of seasons of the show (and only just recently, shamefully) and the first film, I was kind of bummed out that I missed this one in the theaters.  It's the kind of storytelling that lends itself to big screen entertainment despite having started on the small screen of TV.  Now that I've seen it I'm kind of wondering what all the hate and fuss was about.  I am a bit disappointed but I guess it depends on what your expectations are.  On one hand Carter & co should've made more of an attempt to bring a bigger and more thrilling story considering it had been ten years since the previous, and first, film from the series to make it to the theaters.  But then again, this isn't really all that different than an episode from the series.  It felt just like an episode but in widescreen.  It looks and feels great but it's not all that compelling and the climax isn't all that climactic but it serves the picture.  I want to believe (ahahahahahaha) that if this were presented as another episode, fans would be satisfied but when you wait ten years to give them another big screen adventure, you'd better make that story one that feels at home on that screen.  The 20th Century Fox Blu-ray looks great and it's loaded with lots of extras I took a pass on.  The disc also gives you the option of watching the theatrical or extended version of the film.  I watched the latter.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

American Experience: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (2014)

Director: John Maggio

Writer: John Maggio

Composer: Gary Lionelli

Starring: Thom Hatch, Michael Murphy, Michael Rutter, Ken Verdoia, Lee Jensen, Robert Jensen, Joshua Marrufo

More info: IMDb

Plot: The historical account of outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, whose turn of the last century exploits made headlines, led them to be pursued by Pinkerton detectives hired by the railroads, and inspired a hit 1969 film.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? Yes!!!

Here's a quality TV documentary that doesn't waste time with fluff and recapping. That it's THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and it's on PBS helps a big heap.  I dislike The History Channel and others like it and their documentaries that feel the need to kill time with a lot of garbage. Anyway, this one is outstanding and it jumps right into telling the story of Butch Cassidy and not only what he did but giving us the circumstances for what propelled him to do them.  At 48 minutes they pack an awful lot of information and it's of high quality.  The wonderful score fits the doc to a "T".  It's a well-produced film all around and my sole complaint is that it's not long enough.  I just wanted that train to keep on going.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Chicago Overcoat (2009)

Director: Brian Caunter

Writers: John Bosher, Brian Caunter, Andrew Dowd, Josh Staman

Composer: Greg Nicolett

Starring:  Frank Vincent, Kathrine Narducci, Mike Starr, Stacy Keach, Armand Assante, Danny Goldring, tim Gamble, Martin Shannon, Barret walz

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The glory days are back

Plot: The fates of an aging hitman and a washed up detective become entwined when one last job leads to one last chance to settle an old score.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Lou's (Vincent) existence in the Mob is a lot lonelier than you see in other pictures.  It doesn't help that he's out-lived most of his friends (age will do that).  The story does have a lot of the organized crime cliches but then it's got to be tough to avoid all of them since we've been seeing these kinds of pictures, and there have been a lot of them, for more than forty years now.  What it does right is give some fine performances from nearly all of the cast.  There are some line deliveries that don't quite make it (maybe shooting time was limited) but by and large this is a great cast.  It's nice to see Vincent in a leading role after so many outstanding smaller roles in classic films like GOODFELLAS (1990) and CASINO (1995).  The MVP for acting in this picture though without question goes to Danny Goldring, the cop who's after Lou.  Great fucking job.  And the ending?  Loved it AND it took me by surprise.  I dig it when a picture does that.  While it might not make most people's top 20 Mafia pictures list, it's definitely worth a look for fans of the genre.

...Now go home and get your fucking shine box!

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Improv: 50 Years Behind the Brick Wall (2013)

Director: ???

Composers: Bruce Stephen Foster, Extreme Music

Starring: Budd Friedman, Judd Apatow, Richard Belzer, Lewis Black, Russell Brand, Larry David, Jimmy Fallon, Kathy Griffin, Jay Leno, Richard Lewis, Mark Lonow, Bill Maher, Ray Romano, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, Damon wayans, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They all had to start somewhere

Plot: Several comic greats pay tribute to the legendary stand-up stage founded by Budd Friedman in 1963.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

As a stand-up comic fan, shit like this is a no-brainer.  This hour long film is more of a bunch of comics telling stories of their experiences with Bud Friedman and performing at The Improv, there's not nearly enough said about the history of the club and that's a damn shame, you know, 'cause that's what's implied by the title!!!  But who the hell cares.  It's got loads of great comedians shootin' the shit and goofing off for an hour and that's alright by me.  It's fun on that level but I would have preferred a longer show with more than just a Cliff Notes version of the famous comedy joint. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Case of the Hillside Stranglers (1989)

Director: Steve Gethers

Writers: Steve Gethers, Darcy O'Brien

Composer: Gil Melle

Starring: Richard Crenna, Dennis Farina, Billy Zane, Tony Plana, James Tolkan, Karen Austin, Matthew Faison, Robert Harper, Mary Jackson, Rosanna Huffman, William Bassett

More info: IMDb

Tagline:From October 1977 to February 1978 ten young women were brutally slain.  Their bodies were dumped on a hillside in Los Angeles.

Plot: The true chilling story of the "two of a kind", killin' cousins Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi, better known as the Hillside Stranglers.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

When it comes to films based on real events, it's hard not to compare them.  THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER (2004) is a better film all the way around and I highly recommend that one.  This one, though, feels like it has the trappings of an average TV movie complete with some filler and not always 'on' performances.  For the most part, though, the acting is pretty good.  It's nice to see Farina in the role of a bad guy but he's not given nearly as much to do as his presence deserves.  Of the two killers, the focus is more on Zane's character and he's fun to watch, too, especially with that goofy mustache.  Crenna has moments of good and no so good.  One laughably bad moment happens near the end when Grogan's (Crenna) girlfriend, J.D. (Austin), puts herself in harm's way of getting killed by Buono (Farina).  Boy was that not only a dumb move but a dumb, ill-fitting scene.  It screamed amateurishness.  Another big offender was Gil Melle's out of place score.  There were times I thought that a producer with a tin ear pulled Melle's cues from another film entirely.  Bizarre, man.  For fans of true crime, this really only holds interest from the standpoint of the actors on screen and not so much for what the good guys and bad guys did.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time Limit (1957)

Director: Karl Malden

Writers: Henry Denker, Ralph Berkey

Composer: Fred Steiner

Starring: Richard Widmark, Richard Basehart, Dolores Michaels, June Lockhart, Carl Benton Reid, Martin Balsam, Rip Torn, Khigh Dhiegh, Yale Wexler, Alan Dexter, Manning Ross, Joe Di Reda, James Douglas, Kenneth Alton, Jack Webster, Edward McNally

More info: IMDb

Tagline: This is the face of war you've never seen before!

Plot: During the Korean War former POW Major Cargill admits to having collaborated with the enemy but military investigator Colonel Edwards wants the details.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

I must've blinked when Karl Malden's name came up as the director.  It's his sole film in that capacity.  It's a good one, too.   The picture starts off much lighter than it ends (the last act is pretty intense) and the performances intensify as the film progresses toward the truth which is withheld until the final moments of the picture.  There's a good story here as well, one that shows you how not everything is black and white and how being by-the-book isn't always the right choice when faced with the lives of men in your hands.  The big payoff, of course, is the last act when we see first hand what went down with the death of an American POW, the son of a high ranking officer who brings in Col. Edwards (Widmark) to get to the bottom of it by way of Maj. Cargill (Basehart), the man charged with treason in relation to the case.  It's a good war drama that deserves a look.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans (2009)

Director: Eddie Chung

Composer: Greg Kuehn

Starring: Joe Blevins, Jeff Bridges, Lu Elrod, Jerry Haleva, James G. Hoosier, Jim James, Becky Jones, Robin Jones, Stormy Lang, Will Russell, C. Scott Shuffitt

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You're not dealing with morons here.

Plot: This film follows the intertwining lives and sub-culture of "Achievers," fans of "The Big Lebowski."

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I've been a big fan of the Coen brothers for nearly thirty years but I've never understood the cult-ish appeal of THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998) after having watched it at least twice.  This documentary helps break down the reasons why so many people are drawn to it to the point that I'll watch it again with an adjusted pair of eyes.  As far as the documentary goes, it's alright.  It's more about the people who started and participate in the main Lebowskifest that's been going on for some years.  Cool?  Jeff Bridges is in it and he's having a great time.  Ridiculous?  The one chick who's one goal in life is to win the first place trophy for the trivia contest. She's rabidly obsessed with winning it.  Wow.  Just wow.  It's on Netflix instant and it's worth a look for anyone who is a huge fan of The Dude or for those like me who just don't get the gushing fan base.

Monday, April 13, 2015

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism (2009)

Director: Gerald Peary

Writer: Gerald Peary

Composer: Bobby B. Keyes

Starring: Roger Ebert, Andrew Sarris, Pauline Kael, Patricia Clarkson, Leonard Maltin, Janet Maslin, Elvis Mitchell, Rex Reed, Richard Schickel, and tons of other film critics

More info: IMDb

Plot: The history of American film criticism.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not.

I'm obviously a movie fan/freak and I love talking about and hearing people talk about movies so naturally, this is right up my alley.  It's a great little history of just what it says it is.  When you think of movie critics, most people can probably think of two and that begins and ends with Siskel & Ebert.  What I found interesting is not necessarily how many of these critics got their start (which is usually what I dig about these pictures) but how film criticism began and evolved.  Nowadays it seems like it's a lot of bozos like me praising and bitching but there's a whole history to film critics that I never knew existed and it's pretty darn interesting.  I've never found a critic that I agree with all the time and that's OK.  Hell, I've never met anyone I agreed with 100%.  I'd be both delighted and afraid if I ever did.  But it's the reviewers that know the history of the type of film they're writing about and have a talent for entertaining and informing that I dig the most.  Ultimately it's still praising and bitching but some people can disguise it with charm and wit to make it more easily digestible without leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Life Zone (2011)

Director: Rod Weber

Writer: Ken Del Vecchio

Composer: Kenneth Lampl

Starring: Robert Loggia, Lindsey Haun, Martin Kove, Charles Durning, Angela Little, Ken Del Vecchio, Blanche Baker, Katarzyna Wolejnio, Tara Buck, Thomas G. Waites, Eric Etebari

More info: IMDb

Tagline: What if your choice was taken away?

Plot: Kidnapped by a mysterious figure, three women find themselves trapped in an abandoned hospital.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? No.


It was late one night a few months back, I had just watched a flick, I was ready for something else and this sounded interesting largely because I'm a huge fan of Robert Loggia.  I talked about this one for days after telling everyone how entertainingly bad it was.  Why?  For starters, seeing Loggia overact in the shadows with the cheesiest of dialogue.  I guess Satan (OOPS, there's a spoiler) has a touch of the theatrics in him.  The dialogue is often very silly and awkward.  You get glimpses of it in the trailer.  What's more is that it's pretty clear early on that Loggia is the devil.  What you don't know until the over-the-top monologue he gives at the end is that these gals are in Hell and they will spend eternity bringing their babies to term (or something like that).  It's pure pro-life propaganda all the way.  It should be more of a 30-45 minute film in the vein of a Twilight Zone episode with that 'shocker' of an ending.  The acting is sometimes as goofy as the dialogue but its biggest fault is betraying its secret by giving far too many clues, the biggest of which is how Loggia plays his part.  It's not too far from being hit over the head with a hammer foreshadowing.  If the screenplay had been tighter and a more careful eye given to accentuating the thriller/mystery aspect of it, it probably would've fared a lot better.  But as it stands, this will only be horrific to extreme pro-life advocates who cry at the mere thought of an abortion.  Uber religious 12 year old girls will be very frightened by this.  The filmmakers could've widened the appeal of this picture if they had handled it more deftly. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011)

Director: Tom Six

Writer: Tom Six

Composer: James Edward Barker

Starring: Laurence R. Harvey,Ashlynn Yennie, Maddi Black, Kandace Caine, Dominic Borrelli, Lucas Hansen, Lee Nicholas Harris, Dan Burman, Daniel Jude Gennis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: 100% medically INaccurate.

Plot: Inspired by the fictional Dr. Heiter, disturbed loner Martin dreams of creating a 12-person centipede and sets out to realize his sick fantasy.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

It's been a while since I watched this and I was sleepy which means my memory is foggy on it, but what I remember was being left with a sense of disappointment and a touch of boredom.  However, the black and white photography was a brilliant move.  It helps create a darker, bleaker universe around the central character of Martin, wonderfully played by Laurence R. Harvey who doesn't utter a single word.  Creator Tom Six pulls a great move in following up his first film by seemingly setting this one in the real world where THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (2009) is an actual movie.  I was impressed.  Like it or not, he's doing something different and I can appreciate that.  This first sequel (the final act of the HC trilogy will be released this year and the trailer has just hit) ups the gross-out ante over the first one and you get a lot more money shots than you did previously.  I liked what I saw but it seemed to go on for too long.  My sleepiness could have contributed to that which is why I'm willing to give it another go.  I'll see the third film, too, and if I like it I'll probably eventually pick up the box set with all three films.  It's a premise that feels like it's a one-joke kind of film but Tom Six is getting a lot more mileage out of it than you'd think possible.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I Am Divine (2013)

Director: Jeffrey Schwarz

Writer:  ???

Composer: Michael Cudahy

Starring:  Divine, Michael Musto, Mark Payne, Greg Gorman, Mink Stole, John Waters, Tab Hunter, Ricki Lake

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The true story of the most beautiful woman in the world

Plot: How Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, became John Waters' cinematic muse and an international drag icon.

My rating:  8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Any fan of John Waters and/or Divine needs to see this.  The filmmakers do a fabulous job of encapsulating Divine's life in a 90 minute frame.  Not only do you get to hear from many people who were a part of his life (like Water and Mink Stole) or were influenced by him, but you also get to hear from Divine herself from vintage interviews.  I really dug hearing about Glen's early days as the character came to be and the footage from the 60s and 70s is fun, fun, fun!  The ride is over lickety split and it's a super way to learn more about one of the most unusual characters to come down the pike.  It's currently on Netflix instant.