Monday, August 31, 2015

The Informant! (2009)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writers: Scott Z. Burns, Kurt Eichenwald

Composer: Marvin Hamlisch

Starring: Matt Damon, Lucas McHugh Carroll, Thomas F. Wilson, Scott Bakula, Ann Dowd, Allan Havey, Ann Cusack, Tom Smothers, Clancy Brown, Patton Oswalt, Dick Smothers

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Based on a tattle-tale

Plot: The U.S. government decides to go after an agro-business giant with a price-fixing accusation, based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president-turned-informant Mark Whitacre.

My rating:

Will I watch it again? No.

Have you ever watched a movie and felt like the film makers came 'this close' to nailing it but you can't think of what it would've taken to cross the finish line with flying colors? This is such a film for me.  I enjoyed it.  The performances were good, Marvin Hamlisch's score fit the light tone for the picture (his final score before his death in 2012), the pacing is fine and the story is super interesting.  It's one of those onion tales with lots of layers and you find out more and more from the lies Whitacre (Damon) stacks on top of one another.  Perhaps Soderbergh & Co. wanted us to feel just as deceived as the characters around Whitacre which might explain that feeling I have of this just missing the mark.  Maybe I was hoping to see more of a George Costanza from SEINFELD who makes me cringe when he gets deeper and deeper into his lies.  Perhaps I wanted that feeling in Whitacre which would bring me closer to him or at least give me some feelings about his situation.  It's not as cringe-worthy as I thought it should be after it was all over.  Still, it's a great story and everyone involved with the picture does a fine job.  Shockingly, the Warner Bros. DVD has only 6.5 minutes of deleted scenes for extras and that's it.  I expected more considering the story.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Stage Door (1937)

Director: Gregory La Cava

Writers: Morrie Ryskind, Anthony Veiller, Edna Ferber, George S. Kaufman

Composer: Roy Webb

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, Constance Collier, Andrea Leeds, Samuel S. Hinds, Lucille Ball, Franklin Pangborn, Ann Miller

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Brilliant In Cast And Story

Plot: Terry Randall, rich society beauty, has decided to see if she can break into the Broadway theatre scene without her family connections. She goes to live in a theatrical boarding house and finds her life caught up with those of the other inmates and the ever-present disappointment that theatrical hopefuls must live with. Her smart-mouth roommate, Jean, is approached by a powerful producer for more than just a role. And Terry's father has decided to give her career the shove by backing a production for her to star in, in which she's sure to flop. But his machinations hurt more than just Terry.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably.

I really miss the old days of the 30s (as if I were there or something) when a lot of movies had machine gun fast delivery and the quips flew like bullets on St. Valentine's Day.  This picture opens with a bang and the dialogue doesn't let up for a half hour.  I was almost exhausted if I hadn't been so entertained.  Not only is the dialogue and pacing marvelous, the performances sparkle.  The roomful of talented actresses work their lines (and the room) like it's as natural as breathing. They're an awful lot of fun.  And how about that emotional home run delivered by Terry (Hepburn) near the end?  Hokey smokes!  That speech had me all teared-up something fierce.  Wow!  What a great flick!  The Warner Bros. DVD has a few extras including a musical short, UPS AND DOWNS (1937), the theatrical trailer and the 1939 broadcast of this film as performed by Ginger Rogers and Rosalind Russell. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mouse Hunt (1997)

Director: Gore Verbinski

Writer: Adam Rifkin

Composer: Alan Silvestri

Starring: Nathan Lane, Lee Evans, Vicki Lewis, Maury Chaykin, Eric Christmas, Michael Jeter, Debra Christofferson, Camilla Soeberg, Ian Abercrombie, William Hickey, Christopher Walken

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Who's hunting who?

Plot: Two stumblebum inheritors are determined to rid their antique house of a mouse who is equally determined to stay where he is.

My rating: 7/10

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

For years I figured this was nothing more than a silly kids movie until the insistence of a friend praised it above that.  Nathan Lane is fucking hilarious.  Period.  The film plays out like a live action cartoon short from the 40s and 50s and it works perfectly well as that.  I also dig the sense of time and place and how it's got one foot in the 40s and one in the 90s with its spare use of technology.  It's a silly film where the jokes don't always land but that largely depends on your penchant for slapstick comedy.  Enough of the gags work and there are enough laugh out loud moments to make it worth while.  I adore Lane in this and if you love his funny then that's all the ammo you need to want to see this now.  I'm glad I did.  It's currently streaming on Netflix.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Krull (1983)

Director: Peter Yates

Writer: Stanford Sherman

Composer: James Horner

Starring: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Francesca Annis, Alun Armstrong, David Battley, Bernard Breeslaw, Liam Neeson, John Welsh, Graham McGrath ,Tony Church, Bernard Archard, Robbie Coltrane

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A world light-years beyond your imagination.

Plot: A prince and a fellowship of companions set out to rescue his bride from a fortress of alien invaders who have arrived on their home planet.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The film opens with a rousing orchestral score from James Horner that clearly feels like it's much bigger and better than the film deserves.  It's a hell of a lot busier than the visuals.  Like a lot of Horner's scores, you'll hear elements (and almost entire themes) he's used before (and again).  Despite that, it's a fantastic score that goes a long way in selling the film and making it more enjoyable than it would have been with any number of other composers that were doing lower budget fantasy films at the time.  Low budget you say?  IMDb says the budget was $27M.  That's a fuckton of money for 1983.  STAR WARS had a budget of $11M AND that was six years earlier.  The effects in KRULL are cheap looking in comparison.  It has that sci-fi space TV show look from BUCK ROGERS and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.  But let's forget about that.

Was it fun?  Yeah, a little.  I could have done without the pandering to kids by having a kid in it and the silly sorcerer wannabe.  It was fun seeing early roles for Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane.  The stop motion translucent spider was badass!  The action was OK and some of the sequences were too long (like the extended finale that just wouldn't quit).  Lots of people died with barely any emotion from the survivors.  I know what you're saying, "But hey, Jim the Movie Freak, they had more important things on their minds like the quest to save the planet and shit."  Yeah, there's that but they also had way too many things that trivially slowed them down.  If they were hell-bent for leather to finish the quest then they would've stayed more focused.  It's a mildly amusing film that had Horner's score entertaining me more than anything else.  It's taken more over thirty years to get around to watching it.  I'm surprised I didn't see it in the theater but I played the ever-loving shit out of the arcade game way back when.  I wouldn't mind dropping a few more quarters into that machine.

The Columbia special edition DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with a few extras with two commentaries (one cast and crew and the other behind the scenes) and a 22-minute featurette on the making of narrated by Tom Bosley of all people.  What's funny about is how the beginning and end of it tries really hard to put this film up there with the great films of fantasy. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (2013)

Director: Nicholas D. Wrathall

Composer: Ian Honeyman

Starring: Gore Vidal, William F. Buckley, Thomas Gore, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, David Mamet, Jay Parini, Tim Robbins, Robert Scheer, Nina Straight, Eugene L. Vidal, Joanne Woodward

More info: IMDb

Tagline: "The United States Was Founded By The Brightest People In The Country - And We Haven't Seen Them Since."

Plot: This is an unashamedly opinionated film. In Gore Vidal's America, the political coup has already happened. The right have triumphed and the human values of the liberals have been consigned to history. But how did this happen and who organized it? In this film Gore Vidal's acerbic, opinionated and informed approach rips away at the facade of the new America. The film dramatizes Gore's political views and his concern at the present state of American democracy using interviews and historical footage of his famous appearances on television and talk shows over the last fifty years. In the recently filmed interviews Gore examines the course of American history and policy making and draws dramatic conclusions on the fate of the nation in the modern age.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I love this guy. He's one of those brilliant types that you'd want to hang out with all the time just to hear what he has to say about anything and everything.  He's clever, witty, so very eloquent and funny as shit.  His words could be scathing yet sound like poetry and he could insult you in a way that gets to the core and probably in such a way that you wouldn't suspect it. This film captured him shortly before his death.  There are also loads of vintage clips and interviews.  The film paints a positive picture on the man and his legacy. I don't know if there was every any major controversy surrounding the man but it doesn't matter.  I was so taken in by him that I'm very keen on reading his work which is saying something as I read very little but watch an incredible amount of film.  I highly recommend this.  It's currently streaming on Netflix.  Hopefully the eventual DVD/Blu-ray release will have loads of extras.  If so then it will find a permanent home in my collection.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Meek's Cutoff (2010)

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Writer: Jonathan Raymond

Composer: Jeff Grace

Starring: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Neal Huff, Tommy Nelson, Rod Rondeaux

More info: IMDb

Plot: Three wayward families are traveling across the Oregon desert in 1845 led by Stephen Meek, an ignorant mountain man. The farther they go, the more lost they seem to be and the farther they are from water - which they are in desperate need of. Some of the travelers start questioning Meek's knowledge and leading abilities, and at that time a native Indian appears on the horizon. Presumably from the area, the families must decide if they want to put their trust in the Indian to lead them to water, or if they should continue to trust Meek since the Indian may just lead them to danger.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Nice!  Great performances, locations, cinematography and so on.  For a while it doesn't feel like there's much of a story but that works out beautifully because you're allowed to see wordless moments of mundane daily tasks of settlers making their way across the West.  That there's very little music (and what's there feels as dry and harsh as the desert which is perfect for the picture) makes it even better.   It's a quieter film than you'd think but that's one of the things I liked most about it.  Oddly, it was filmed in 1:37.  I wonder why it wasn't shot in a wider format, especially considering the locale.  Maybe the wider screen would have given it a certain level of romanticism that the filmmakers were wanting to avoid.  The ending isn't typical either.  We don't get a conclusion but it's more about leaving the party much like we found them.  You won't recognize Bruce Greenwood from his bushy beard and his accent.  The Oscilloscope DVD doesn't have much for extras.  There's a 9-minute making-of featurette that has very little dialogue and none of it is from anyone telling us anything.  It's all footage of the film being made without any clear narrative as if it's just a bunch of extra stuff cobbled together for the sake of having something.  Other than that there's the theatrical trailer (fullscreen, of course) and 7 trailers for other Oscilloscope films.  It'd be nice to have a commentary since the extras are light but it's still worth checking out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best (2011)

Director: Ryan O'Nan

Writer: Ryan O'Nan

Composer: Rob Simonsen

Starring: Ryan O'Nan, Michael Weston, Arielle Kebbel, Andrew McCarthy, Jason Ritter, Wilmer Valderrama, Christopher McDonald, Melissa Leo, Jake Miller, Charles Chu, Philip Ettinger, Steven Boyer, Charlie Hewson

More info: IMDb

Plot: Underachiever Alex (O'Nan), recently dumped by his girlfriend, reluctantly embarks on an impromptu road trip with his new and eccentric bandmate, Jim (Weston). By channeling their inner children and giving a new meaning to the term lo-fi, Alex and Jim find their unique style by bringing the sound of children s instruments to their unsuspecting fans. Playing a series of bizarre shows, and experiencing multiple near-disasters, Alex and Jim's determination takes them on a true coming-of-age journey one that may be their last shot at achieving their childhood dreams.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

The first bit in the trailer is the best and funniest moment in the picture.  Michael Weston (as Jim, the goofy guy who plays the toy instruments) is hilarious and I wanted more of him.  He's absent from most of the last half hour and he's really missed.  When it's up to Alex (writer/director/star O'Nan) to carry the film where he's trying to deal with loss and discovering what's most important to him, it drags a lit but it stays engaging if not a little disjointed.  SPOILERS IN THE KEY OF D really was kind of lonely not having Jim around and Cassidy just disappears into thin air at this point, too.  This gives Alex some time to spend with his religious brother's family (Brian played by Andrew McCarthy who still looks great).  Alex hangs out with Brian's 10-year-old son which is nice but it's when Cassidy just shows up to announce Jim's grandfather died and Jim is going to a rough venue to perform solo for the battle of the bands competition, that's when it gets typical Hollywood.  While I liked the upbeat tone (it doesn't end like you think it will but it's close) I would have almost preferred Cassidy to stay out of it and watch Alex make it on his own, even if making it finds him re-teaming with Jim.  END OF SPOILERS...YARRRRRRR! While I didn't find it entirely satisfying, it's a nice little picture that has a few good laughs in the first half hour before it gets into self-discovery, let's learn some life lessons mode that will likely be more satisfying to kids in their twenties.  The Oscilloscope DVD has some extras including a 16-minute making of featurette, a couple of minutes of outtakes, 28 minutes with the boys performing 3 songs and giving a Q&A at a film festival, two short films (TAG SALE SALVATION (about 3 minutes) and SWEET SOUNDS OF CASIO (5 minutes) (both of which are pretty cute), the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen) and trailers for four other Oscilloscope films.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)

Original title: Wyrmwood

Director: Kiah Roache-Turner

Writers: Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner

Composer: Michael Lira

Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill, Luke McKenzie, Yure Covich, Keith Agius, Catherine Terracini, Berynn Schwerdt, Meganne West, Cain Thompson

More info: IMDb

Plot: Barry is a talented mechanic and family man whose life is torn apart on the eve of a zombie apocalypse. His sister, Brooke, is kidnapped by a sinister team of gas-mask wearing soldiers & experimented on by a psychotic doctor. While Brooke plans her escape Barry goes out on the road to find her & teams up with Benny, a fellow survivor - together they must arm themselves and prepare to battle their way through hordes of flesh-eating monsters in a harsh Australian bushland.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

OK, this film requires A LOT of suspension of disbelief to the point the movie is ruined if you start to nitpick it.  And there's no explanation on how things happen (like the psychic thing or the flammable blood, etc). That doesn't mean it's a deal killer but I can easily see how a lot of folks will be bothered by this, myself included.  However, it is rather fun. There are some good laughs, neat kills, lots of blood and so on.  I have to give the film makers some credit, they did a great job with what they had to work with.  It's a great looking picture and I really liked the locations.  One thing that bugged me (other than what I listed above) is that the film was constantly shifting in and out of focus on the foreground and background.  Maybe it was done to add a little something style-wise to the flick but it would have been much more effective if it was used sparingly instead of all over the place.  It's not that bad of a picture and it's truly worth watching just for Leon Burchill who plays Benny.  I loved that character.  It's on Netflix streaming right now so if you've got it and you're a horror fan, at least check out the Australian zombie picture for the good things it does and try to get through the not so good.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Coherence (2013)

Director: James Ward Byrkit

Writers: James Ward Byrkit, Alex Manugian

Composer: Kristin Ohrn Dyrud

Starring: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Larene Scafaria, Elizabeth Gracen, Hugo Armstrong, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Rearrange your brain.

Plot: On the night of an astronomical anomaly, eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending events.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

This neat little sci-fi thriller was reportedly shot in  5 days for only $50k.  That's pretty damn good.  Hell, it's a pretty good flick.  At first I wasn't on board so much because I really don't care about watching 30-something, upper middle class yuppies hanging around a dinner table talking about anything and everything.  There's a bunch of them and there's constant, often overlapping conversations.  Then at the 30 minute mark something happens that changes all of that and suddenly they've got my attention.  It ratchets up again about another half hour later and holds it until the end which is cool enough to warrant a sequel that will never come.  It's one of those WTF final shots that will leave you wanting more and that's not a bad thing.  It's a good flick but it's even more impressive when you consider how well the cast and crew did with such little time.  The handheld camera crap gets annoying sometimes when the camera shakes a little too much or the focus is being diddled with.  Really, though, it's the story that I found most interesting.  It's a thinker and it's fun.  The Oscilloscope DVD comes with some extras including a commentary track, a 16-minute making of featurette, camera test footage (4  minutes and with commentary from the director), the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen) and trailers for four other Oscilloscope releases.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Flesh and Blood: The Story of the Krays (1991)

Director: Chris Short

Composer:  Mark Fishlock

Starring:  Ronald & Reginald Kray (archive footage), Peter Bourke & Doug Iles (narrators)

More info: Amazon.UK

Tagline: The true story of the East End 'Firm' and their reign of terror

Plot: A profile of Ronnie and Reggie Kray, two of the most notorious East End gangsters of the early 60s, as told by their family, friends and enemies. The brothers' reign of terror, which included extortion rackets, fraud and murder, was brought to an end when they were imprisoned for life, and later inspired the film 'The Krays'.  This disc sets out to cut through the myths and legends that surround the infamous Kray Twins to tell the true story of them and their reign of terror in London's gangland East End.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I loves me some true crime docs.  These two brothers are notorious for being Britain's most violent criminals and gangland leaders in the 50s and 60s.  I'm sure there are others that were just as brutal but these two kids got all the press. This documentary hits the familiar beats of setting the scene for the East End of London in the 1930s and 40s, the world they grew up in, their upbringing, early mischief, rise to power and fame and their eventual downfall.  The Krays were an interesting bunch and it's really surprising that the only film version of them is THE KRAYS (1990) which is a pretty good flick.  It's been over twenty years since I saw it, though.  Digging around IMDb in an effort to find anything about this documentary, I see that Tom Hardy has a film coming out called THE LEGEND, where he plays both brothers, and two films that are due this year, THE RISE OF THE KRAYS and THE FALL OF THE KRAYS, all of which I'm keen to see.  This doc is rather bland in its telling and in the narration.  Still, there are interviews with family members, the coppers that took them down and criminals who ran with the brothers and that makes it worth a watch but it'll also leave you wanting something more.  What, I don't know. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Casting By (2012)

Director: Tom Donahue

Composer:Leigh Roberts

Starring: Marion Dougherty, Lynn Stalmaster, Woody Allen, Edward Asner, Ned Beatty, Peter Bogdanovich, Jeff Bridges, Glenn Close, Ronny Cox, Mel Gibson, Robert De Niro, Richard Donner, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood, etc., etc., etc.

More info: IMDb

Plot: The surprising, never-before-told tale of the indispensable yet unsung Casting Director - Iconoclasts whose keen eye, exquisite taste and gut instincts redefined Hollywood.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I've got to start by saying how much of a dick Taylor Hackford is.  I realize I probably just shot myself in the foot and made sure that I'll never work in Hollywood again but after watching this, let's face, this guy's an asshole. Did you know that there is no Academy Award category for casting which is the only title card role to not have a category?  Hackford loves that and his belittling of that job is obscene as it is stupid.  After sitting through this excellent 89 minute documentary you come away with an awful lot.  Marion Dougherty is a truly amazing woman.  A casting director can make or break a film. A good CD can make a director's job much easier and audiences more grateful (although they might not realize it.  Oh, and Taylor Hackford is an asshat.  This picture mainly profiles Dougherty but other CDs are interviewed as well as a Brinks truckload of great actors who got their start in pictures because of her and her uncanny ability to see something in actors what others might not and she stood by her decisions.  A lot of those people are in this picture to give testament and thanks for her role in their careers.  Make sure you stay through the credits.  Burt Young brought me to tears.  It's currently streaming on Netflix.

The Vicar of Dibley (1994-2007) TV series

Starring:  (regular cast) Dawn French, James Fleet, Trevor Peacock, Gary Waldhorn, Roger Lloyd Pack, Emma Chambers, John Bluthal, and guest spots from Richard Armitage, Peter Capaldi, Johnny Depp, Richard Griffiths, Miranda Hart, Sting, Sarah Ferguson, Sean Bean, Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Saunders and Emma Watson

More info: IMDb

Plot:  A boisterous female minister comes to serve in an eccentrically conservative small town's church.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably.

I don't think I've covered a TV series on this blog.  Despite the staggering number of films I see annually, I also watch a lot of TV shows (usually after they've finished their broadcast runs).  There's no reason not to talk about them when I finish a series so here we go.

It's damn ridiculous that Netflix has most every episode (you'll have to go to YouTube to find the Comic Relief episodes) except for the first one which sets up the show.  WTF?  I know, right?  Anyway, I tried to watch this years ago and didn't laugh at all which surprised me as I dig French and I love British comedy TV.  Well, I finally gave it another go and I'm glad I stuck with it.  Dawn French needs to have my babies.  She's hilarious and touching as are the actors and characters that surround her in this series.  The people behind this show made this small village feel very much like a place that you'd want to either live or at least spend some time there.  There were some surprises like when one of the elder in the main cast comes out of the closet.  It was very touching how that was handled as almost a throwaway without dwelling on it.  It's hilarious how, during the series, every male regular proposes to her.  It's always funny but there's a lot of heart behind their intentions.  It's a series that made me laugh an awful lot and also tear up.  I couldn't have done either without everything in the show coming together with wonderful performances to pull me into it.  I cared about all of these characters and I'm glad I got to spend some time with them.

Each series/season has an overall story arc with lots of B-stories.  They naturally all tidy up nicely by the end and the series finale was very satisfying and very well played.  Some of the characters do ridiculously stupid things but it's all for laughs, of course, so the low brow humor that sneaks in doesn't ruin the show.  It plays nicely in the context of the situtaion.

The entire DVD set recently dropped to $30 on Amazon and I had to pass.  I binge-watched everything in a couple of weeks and I couldn't think of pulling the trigger just yet.  It's like you just finished eating a hearty meal when someone asks what you want for lunch tomorrow.  Too soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Director: Grant Heslov

Writers: Peter Heslov, Jon Ronson

Composer: Rolfe Kent

Starring: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick, Waleed Zuaiter, Stephen Root, Glenn Morshower, Nick Offerman, Tim Griffin

More info: IMDb

Tagline: No goats. No glory.

Plot:  A reporter in Iraq might just have the story of a lifetime when he meets Lyn Cassady, a guy who claims to be a former member of the U.S. Army's New Earth Army, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably Not.

It looks and feels like a Coen Bros. movie and a good one at that.  That's quite a compliment.  George Clooney is hilarious.  He often has that wide-eyed O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000) thing going on that just tickles me to death.  Geez, just look at the cast. Jeff Bridges is hilarious, Kevin Spacey is hilarious.  I've used that word a lot already but is the movie hilarious?  It's got some great laugh out loud moments but it's not a solid 2.3 laughs per minute like you'd think it should be but it is pretty fun. It's sometimes quirky but what helps bring the funny is that it's largely true.  The names have been changed but some of the people and a lot of the situations are totally real.  The Anchor Bay DVD will give you more details with the extras like a 12-minute featurette with the real guys telling their story (fun), a 7-minute featurette that gives you the usual cast & crew interviews with lots of clips from the film, 4 minutes of deleted scenes, the anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer and trailers for other Anchor Bay films & TV shows.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

U-571 (2000)

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Writers: Jonathan Mostow, Sam Montgomery, David Ayer

Composer: Richard Marvin

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, Jon Bon Jovi, David Keith, Thomas Kretschmann, Jake Weber, Jack Noseworthy, Tom Guiry, Will Estes, Terrence 'T.C.' Carson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You won't come up for air until it's over!

Plot: A German submarine is boarded by disguised American submariners trying to capture their Enigma cipher machine.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I saw this in the theater, later on DVD and finally, last night, on Blu-ray and I'm done with this one.  It doesn't get better with each viewing but worse.  Not only is this picture LOADED with gross historical inaccuracies, but it's got a few little things that don't make sense like the open shelves on the sub not having lips to prevent things from falling off them, Tyler (McConaughey) standing topside on the sub looking at the destroyer that's actively firing on them, shit like that.  Now, the action is good.  I really like how the large cat and mouse chase goes on and on in the final third of the picture.  It's well-directed, edited and so on and I would recommend seeing the picture just for that but there's just enough of the bothersome stuff that gets in the way that will now, after having seen it three times in fifteen years, get in the way of me seeing it again.  Maybe in thirty years I'll give it another go but for now I think this one is behind me and DAS BOOT (1981) is waiting for that fourth go 'round.  The Universal Blu-ray looks great but there are no extras (!!!) except for a digital copy which the package says may or may not work after 2012.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Director: Peter Jackson

Writers: Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson

Composer: Peter Dasent

Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Peirse, Diana Kent, Clive Merrison, Simon O'Connor, Jed Brophy, Peter Elliott, Gilbert Goldie

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The true story of a crime that shocked a nation.

Plot: Two girls have an intense fantasy life; their parents, concerned the fantasy is too intense, separate them, and the girls take revenge.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah, twice is fine.

I first watched this in the months leading up to Peter Jackson's first LOTR movie 'cause I wanted to see what this guy did that was so special to go from low budget horror to this film to the gargantuan LOTR trilogy.  Great flick, this one.  I like it a little more now than I did 15 years ago. It's playful, the relationship between the two girls is cute and infectious and the story takes us on a natural and understandable path that leads to murder and the murder is cringe-worthy even if you don't get to see it full on.  Dasent's score is beautiful and it's ideal for the picture.  The performances are strong, too, as is everything else. It's a well-crafted drama that spends nearly the entire film building the relationship between these girls and creating the atmosphere that justifies (in their minds only) their actions.  Fascinating and engaging pretty much sum this up.  The nearly bare bones Mirimax DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print but the extras are weak as you only get a trailer for this film and for BACKFLASH, TEACHING MRS. TINGLE, SHIPPING NEWS, PNERO and one that features a best of Mirimax which is them just trumpeting how good they are, all of which are fullscreen. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Mighty Quinn (1989)

Director: Carl Schenkel

Writers: A.H.Z. Carr, Hampton Fancher

Composer: Anne Dudley

Starring: Denzel Washington, James Fox, Mimi Rogers, M. Emmet Walsh, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Art Evans, Esther Rolle, Norman Beaton, Alex Colon, Robert Townsend, Keye Luke

More info: IMDb

Tagline: THE CHIEF OF POLICE AND THE CHIEF SUSPECT. They know each other too well to let a little thing like murder get in their way.

Plot: When police officer Xavier Quinn's childhood friend, Maubee, becomes associated with murder and a briefcase full of ten thousand dollar bills, The Mighty Quinn must clear his name. Or try to catch him, which could be even trickier.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Hmmmm.  It's a pleasant film with Denzel as a likable lead as usual.  The Jamaican location shooting is a nice getaway from the usual crime picture.   Walsh is fun and despicable as usual.  I liked the DR. NO (1963) nod with the three blind guys.  That was cute.  Quinn's (Washington) detective work feels 75% complete, as if there were some scenes cut that filled out more of the investigation. But then there's some thinly-veiled filler like with a scene where Quinn plays piano and sings.  It's funny how he suddenly loses his Jamaican accent.  It was a nice little scene but it distracted us from the investigation.  Once he's back on the hunt the film doesn't let up as if the film makers had gotten lazy and suddenly realized what they were there to do. Still, fans of Denzel or Walsh will dig it.  Rogers isn't in the picture much despite third billing and Townsend maybe has ten minutes of screen time and he's on the damn poster.  He's mostly there to deliver some much needed exposition on what really went down.  Oh, and what a bad poster, too.  It looks like it's a silly comedy.  There is some humor in this but it's not what the poster pretends to be (thankfully). The MGM DVD sports a non-anamorphic widescreen print with the sole extra being the original theatrical trailer.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Longest Yard (1974)

Director: Robert Aldrich

Writers: Tracy Keenan Wynn, Albert S. Ruddy

Composer: Frank De Vol

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad, James Hampton, Harry Caesar, John Steadman, Charles Tyner, Mike Henry, Jim Nicholson, Bernadette Peters, Pervis Atkins, Tony Cacciotti, Anitra Ford, Michael Fox, Joe Kapp, Richard Kiel

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's Survival of the Fiercest and Funniest

Plot: A football player-turned-convict organizes a team of inmates to play against a team of prison guards. His dilemma is that the warden asks him to throw the game in return for an early release

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? YES!

Probably about every 8 or so years I'll forget how great this flick is and slap it in for a reminder.  Probably this is my favorite sports film.  Reynolds oozes with charisma.  He's so damn likable it's not even funny.  Eddie Albert is an amazing actor, too.  This guy can go from charming as a peach to ruthless mother fucker on the turn of a dime.  Hell, the whole damn cast (and what a cast!!!) is outstanding.  Director Aldrich (just look at this guy's credits) did an outstanding job.  You can almost feel the heat on the chain gang.  The game in the last act looks like a legit game and they had cameras there to shoot it.  It's expertly edited and there is enough humor scattered about to keep things moving along and from being considered a comedy.  It's a sports prison drama with some laughs along the way.  This is a great film no matter how you slice it.

The Paramount DVD has a great looking anamorphic widescreen image with a few extras including a commentary from Burt Reynolds and writer/producer Albert Ruddy, two 11-minute featurettes with some of the cast et al on making the film, an "exclusive look" at the 2005 OK remake, the original theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen) and 7 minutes of previews (fullscreen and non-anamorphic wide) for guy-related shows and movies.  I can do without the horseshit that doesn't pertain to the '74 film but then I don't have to watch it.