Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sixteen (1973)

Director: Lawrence Dobkin

Writers: Curtis Brown Taylor, Jim Lowe

Composers: Jack K. Tillar, Don Wilkins

Starring: Mercedes McCambridge, Ford Rainey, Maidie Norman, John Lozier, Simone Griffeth, Buddy Foster, Beverly Powers, Peter Greene, Parley Baer, Robert Corley, Mitchell Edmonds, Raymond Edmonds, Jewell Futch, Walter Kramer, Lyla Hay Owen, Sonny Shroyer, Boots Tudor

More info: IMDb

Tagline: She Learned Everything The Hard Way

Plot:  A beautiful young girl from the country experiences life's bittersweet realities in this coming-of-age drama set in the rural South. When a highway is built near her home and a traveling carnival comes to town, the teenage Naomi (Simone Griffeth) falls in love for the first time and is exposed to the seedier side of human nature.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

Here's a nice surprise.  I expected a sleazy hicksploitation picture but I was surprised just a few minutes in how well acted and filmed it was.  Seriously.  This is a well-written and performed flick.  The actors playing the family really sold it.  Their performances felt pretty damn genuine.  I got where they were coming from and I was sure as shit about to bust up whoever came at them trying to steal their money.  The first sumbitch that tried was The Reverend (weaselly played by Parley Baer).  There's a good deal of time spent at a carnival which was all kinds of fun.  I was really taken in at the family experiencing it for the first time.  The title refers to the age of the daughter, Naomi.  She enters a walk-through house of horrors and it's not long before she's scarred to death to the point of tears.  The music, editing, direction, lighting all worked beautifully to the point that it felt like something lifted out of a top notch horror film. I'm really impressed with the quality of this picture all around. I couldn't tell you who the weakest acting link is as they all did a great job.  Now, there is some elements of exploitation like incest and some nudity but it's not the sleazefest you'd expect with a film that fits in that genre to a degree.  Oh, and the final act does not disappoint.  I could just be staying up way past my bedtime and I'm imagining things but this is a good film that hit me from left field.  Holy crap! How did I not recognize Simone Griffeth (as Naomi)?  She played Annie, Frankenstein's navigator in DEATH RACE 2000 (1975).  And looking at the credits of the rest of the family (with the exception of Lozier whose sole credit is this picture), they've all got a long list of credits.  McCambridge was the voice of the possessed Regan in THE EXORCIST (1973)!!!  Director Lawrence Dobkin has over 200 acting credits and a crapload of directing credits.  Oddly, despite cranking out a good script, the two writers only ever did this one thing. The print I saw was a crappy fullscreen VHS copy.  The trailer above (and IMDb) shows that it was shot in a wider format.  I'll watch this again only if I can get my hands on that one.  Check this on out, y'all.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bobby Deerfield (1977)

Director: Sydney Pollack

Writers: Alvin Sargent, Erich Maria Remarque

Composer: Dave Grusin

Starring: Al Pacino, Marthe Keller, Anny Duperey, Walter McGin, Van Doude, Gerard Hernandez, Stphan Meldegg, Norm Nielsen, Romolo Valli, Jaime Sanchez, Bernie Pollack

More info: IMDb 

Tagline: He had to meet her - to find himself!

Plot: A racing car champion falls in love with a freewheeling lady who makes his life difficult but she has a secret that explains her behavior. 

My rating:  4/10

Will I watch it again?  NO.

Dreadful.  OK, maybe not that bad but it's incredibly slow and you're pretty much watching two character. Bobby (Pacino) softly broods and broods.  This is Pacino at his blandest.  The first time he smiles in this is at the one hour and forty-five minute mark.  It's then the 'happy' romance starts but then you've got twenty minutes before the picture is over which is nice but it only lasts a few minutes before something happens that ends it. Then there's Lillian (Keller) who is incredibly annoying and manipulative.  And Bobby takes it.  Most men (or women) would've dropped her not long after meeting her.  She's not a nice person and very cryptic.  I honestly can't see why Pacino or Pollack accepted this project except for the money and a working vacation to France for a month or so.  Woof.  It really is as exciting as the poster suggests.  I liked the last twenty minutes but the rest of it is one tough act to take.  The Warner Bros. DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print but the only extras you get is a behind the scenes sneak peek at 88 MINUTES (10 minutes) and trailers for the DVD of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), COMANCHE MOON, DAMAGES season 1 and Hot Action Movies.  Oh, boy.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Over 18... and Ready! (1969)

Director: Lloyd Allen

Writer: Don Lambert

Composer: John Bath

Starring: Mary McRea, Larry Martinelli, Margo Stevens, Michelle LeGrande, Gary M. Fox, Sylvia Thorne, Herb Henry

More info: IMDb

Plot: A teenage girl sets out to active fame in Hollywood as an actress, only a sleazy producer's wife has other plans for her.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Add this to the checklist of things to avoid...movies that don't have a trailer OR a movie poster to be found online anywhere.  Already on the list is long, drawn out sequence.  This one starts with 4 minutes of driving around Los Angeles.  It's not a bad thing because it's from '69 but when you've got a flick that's only 66 minutes you just know it's only there for filler and nothing else.  The star of the show is Mary McRea (as Lyn).

Lovely plumage.  It takes a while but before long she's having sex with the producer, the producer's wife, the photographer and so on.  Not a bad thing.  The nudity is the best thing about the picture.  Her acting's terrible but she has a lovely smile...and plumage. It turns out this was her first and last film.  The ending is oddly downbeat.  It's cool and all but it feels like it was tossed in to make it edgy.  It wasn't necessary but I'll take it.  The pacing is OK but not even the groovy lounge music could save it.  The film just has a bland way about it, all quiet like, enough to give you the sleepies if you're watching it at night (which I did).  Fortunately you've got Something Weird Video to save the day.  It's on a double feature DVD with ALLEY TRAMP (1969) (a better, more enjoyable and acted picture) and, being as awesome as SWV is, you get 8 trailers and 3 shorts.  The shorts are pretty weak but the trailers are fantastically sleazy, just the way I like 'em.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Writers: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris, Tedi Sarafian

Composer: Marco Beltrami

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews, Mark Famiglietti, Earl Boen, Moira Sinise, Chopper Bernet, Chrsopher Lawford, M.C. Gainey

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Next Summer, the machines will rise.

Plot: A cybernetic warrior from a post-apocalyptic future travels back in time to protect a 19-year old drifter and his future wife from a most advanced robotic assassin and to ensure they both survive a nuclear attack.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

This franchise is spotty but at least each film is doing something different than the others.  I LOVE the first film, do not like the second, like this one, the fourth is OK and I had a lot of fun with number five.  I'm about sick of the time travel aspect of it and I'm certainly bored with the tired repetition of call back lines in EVERY.SINGLE.SEQUEL.  This picture has lots of good action sequences and a great ending.  There are a couple of cheesy lines and things that don't make sense (like how did John & pals get into the heavily guarded military base?  Did my eyes close for too long on that one?) but ultimately I found it entertaining and a good addition to the franchise.  I wish they wouldn't relegate Brad Fidel's great theme until the end credits and use it during the picture.  it's such a great, iconic piece of music.  In the next few days/weeks I'll have to get around to seeing TERMINATOR: SALVATION for the second and probably last time.  I don't have fond memories of that one.  The Warner Bros. 2-disc DVD set has a ton of extras.  I'm probably going to let this one go and eventually get the Blu-ray when the price is right.  

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Green Inferno (2013)

Director: Eli Roth

Writers:Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolas Lopez

Composer: Manuel Riveiro

Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Magda Apanowicz, Ignacia Allamand, daryl Sabara, Nicolas Martinez, Sky Ferreira, Eusebio Arenas, Richard Burgi, Matias Lopez, Ramon Llao

More info: IMDb

Tagline: No good deed goes unpunished.

Plot: A group of student activists travels to the Amazon to save the rain forest and soon discover that they are not alone.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

The end teases you with THE GREEN INFERNO PART II: HEADS ARE GONNA ROLL.  Just kidding.  It's been 8 years since Roth's last directed feature came out.  This one was made two years ago but there was some legal issue (so I heard) that kept this from being released.  Let's forget for a moment that I've been anxiously waiting that long to see it.  What a disappointment and big missed opportunity.  Wow.  I'm not going to spoil it.  There's not really much to spoil anyway.  It takes way too long for us to get to Chile which means there's too much time spent setting up plot in the big city with the college kids.  There's also some stuff mentioned about female genital mutilation that sounds like it's going to go somewhere later on but it fizzles out with a weak ass whisper.  It does get better for the last two thirds of the picture once we're in the jungle but there are things that aren't thought out well that bugged me.  I wasn't looking to pick this apart but there are so many plot holes that the picture starts to collapse on itself because of them.  Roth made this film because he's such a huge film fan of the cannibal genre that picked up steam in the late 70s and died in the early 80s.  I like those films, too.  Compared to those, GI is incredibly weak.  I thought I was watching a PG-13 film.  Just when you think there's not going to be a lick of nudity, we get just a scant amount and then she's promptly dressed with slender strands of rope fabric which barely covers her nipples and a rope fabric bikini bottom.  What kind of tribe does this?  Females of all ages (ALL, mind you) were covered this way.  Whatever.  I didn't come to see this for some bare chested women but it's a staple of the genre that's now over forty years old.

The gore is even kept to a minimum.  There's not much imagination in this picture and that's especially shocking considering it came from Roth.  I really dig this guy's pictures but he's taken a big misstep here and he's delivered an under-cooked story that lacks a lot of what made those early cannibal pictures so great or at least memorable.  And the ending? Are you kidding me?  It's just another one of those plot points that's flimsy and not as solid as it could be.  I actually liked the attempt at doing something different with the ending but it was the last straw on a camel's back that broke a half hour ago.  I didn't hate the movie although it sounds like I did.  It just saddens me that I waited two years to see it and spent $20 for a ticket and concessions to wash it down.  The best scene in the movie is when someone commits suicide.  It was fast, unexpected and fucking awesome as shit!  At least there's that.  His next one, KNOCK KNOCK comes out in a couple of weeks.  I'll be there. 

The Alley Tramp (1968)

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Writers: Paul Gordone, Jean Michael, Allison Louise Downe

Composer: Phillipe Pounard

Starring: Julia Ames, Jean Lamee, Lisa Bourdon, Marie Delmonde, Steve White, Ann Heath, Jacque Sette, Lawrence J. Aberwood, Roy Collodi, Herschell Gordon Lewis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: She Went For Anything In Pants!

Plot: A teenage girl sets out on a sexual odyssey of having affairs with various men including her mother's secret boyfriend.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe with a group.

I just popped this disc in because of the title.  That Something Weird Video released it is icing on the cake.  Is it bad?  Yeah but it is entertaining to a degree.  That it was made in the late 60s makes it fun from the hair styles and fashion...

 to the outrageously wild mind set where chicks took it and liked it!

There's lots of gratuitous nudity from the mother and daughter and there's even a shot of mom's undercarriage which really surprised me as you don't see that in these exploitation pictures from the era.  Except for the bathtub scene with mom, HGL makes an effort to cleverly conceal the front bottom.

The picture only runs 69 minutes and its biggest problem is pacing.  There's a LOT of filler like when Marie (Ames) is in her room alone, changing clothes and so on.  Shit like that will bore the piss out of you but there are moments that are quite fun that include the bad acting. It's amazing how much you can accomplish with rehearsals, something I doubt HGL had time to allow for (or care for which can be part of the charm of his films).  The lighting is bad (lots of multiple shadows) but there's a lot of nakedness for the sake of nakedness.  The ending is fucking awesome.  Where the movie was slow in the first hour, the last ten or so minutes make up for that with a wham bam series of events.  I kept wondering about the title (great title, by the way) and how that pertains to this movie.  It's the final act that delivers it and in spades.  It helps redeem the picture and makes it a recommend based on that alone. It's fun but it does come too late in the film to make this even better.  The Something Weird Video DVD has this film as the first part of a double bill with OVER 18...AND READY! (1969) and it comes loaded with extras (sadly, no commentary by HGL) like 8 trashy trailers (including this picture) and three sleazy shorts. 

The Interpreter (2005)

Director: Sydney Pollack

Writers: Martin Stellman, Brian Ward, Charles Randolp, Scott Frank, Steven Zaillian

Composer: James Newton Howard

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Jesper Christensen, Yvan Attal, Earl Cameron, George Harris, Michael Wright, Clyde Kusatsu, Sssssydney Pollack

More info: IMDb

Tagline: We're all being watched

Plot: Political intrigue and deception unfold inside the United Nations, where a U.S. Secret Service agent is assigned to investigate an interpreter who overhears an assassination plot.

My rating: 6

Will I watch it again? No.

Silvia Broome (Kidman)...that bitch is impossible to deal with.  She jerks around Tobin (Penn) and his security team by lying and keeping information from them for a very long time.  Little by little Tobin gets her to admit some sort of truth but she continues to play this stupid game which neuters the effectiveness of these people trying to do their job and save lives.  Because of her lots of innocent people die.  Near the 85 minute mark is when she FINALLY fesses up to Tobin (and us).  Now I can't stand her.  OK, so it turns out she's got a really good reason why she was doing it and I dug her reason.  Her face gets jacked up with shrapnel but the wounds disappear a few short days later when she's saying her goodbyes to Tobin.  I guess we can't have Nicole Kidman looking damaged before the credits roll.  I would have liked a grittier ending but I'm not surprised with how it turned out.  It'd be a decent thriller (if it weren't for the almost laughable plot holes (like why would assassins discuss anything inside the UN assembly hall and why she thought she could bring the bad guy to justice if she could prevent the assassination) but it makes me yearn for the top notch ones we got back in the 70s.  The performances are good but the story falls just a tad short in delivering the goods, mainly because it ends (once the big surprise is revealed) just like you'd think Hollywood would. 

The Universal DVD has an anamorphic widescreen print.  The extras are an alternate ending (still not the one I wanted), two minutes of deleted scenes, a ten minute sit down with Pollack on making movies (this was his last film, BTW), a five minute piece with Pollack on the reason why he started shooting a 1:33 picture starting with OUT OF AFRICA (1985) until this picture.  It's criminal that OUT was the first one he stopped shooting wide on but whatever.  There's also an 8 minute piece on shooting inside the UN building (the first film to do so), 8 minutes spending time with real interpreters for the UN and a commentary with Pollack.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Barbie Gets Sad Too (2002)

Original title: Barbie Tambien Puede Estar Triste

AKA: Barbie Can Also Be Sad

Director: Albertina Carri

Writer: Albertina Carri

Composer: Edgardo Rudnitzky

Starring: Divina Gloria, Osvaldo Gonzalez, Ricardo Merkin, Juana Molina, Susana Pampin, Eusebio Poncela, Diego Schipani

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Stop-motion animation featuring Ken and Barbie dolls. Engaging in sexual (and some rather kinky) activities. Also some violence. The plot evolves around troubles in their marriage, due to Ken being a jerk. Will Barbie find happiness?

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Now this is the kind of thing you throw on at parties!

Mattel, the toy maker behind Barbie, tried to stop this from being shown in the filmmakers native Argentina.  They failed.  Hell, it was even shown on TV there!!!  It's truly a work of art and I stand applauding Carri for making this exist at all.  It's hilarious.  Sure, the stop motion isn't as fluid as you'd like it to be but considering it's a solid 20 minutes of stop motion Barbie dolls having straight sex, gay sex, lesbian sex, chicks with dicks sex and in all kinds of positions and explicitness, I'd say he did a fantastic job regardless of the frame rate. What's more is there's some semblance of a story but who the fuck cares?  It's Barbie dolls fuckin' every which-a-away and then some.  What the whole glorious shebang embedded above then download the sumbitch and spice up every party from now on.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Best of Enemies (2015)

Directors: Robert Gordon, Morgan Neville

Writers: Robert Gordon, Morgan Neville

Composer: Jonathan Kirkscey

Starring: Gore Vidal, William F. Buckley Jr., Dick Cavett, Christopher Hitchens, Noam Chomsky, Matt Tyrnauer, Ginia Bellafante, Brooke Gladstone, Sam Tanenhaus, Kelsey Grammer, John Lithgow

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Buckley vs. Vidal. 2 Men. 10 Debates. Television Would Never Be The Same.

Plot: A documentary on the series of televised debates in 1968 between the liberal Gore Vidal and the conservative William F. Buckley Jr.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? YES!!!

More, please.  I loved it.  Vidal and Buckley were so eloquent that they could serve you an insult and you'd think it was a compliment.  I certainly wouldn't want to get in a sparring match with either of these cats.  They'd verbally eviscerate me.  I'd probably like it, too.  This documentary covers an event in 1968 that brought these two together for an unprecedented event that would reverberate for decades and I'd never heard of it until a few days ago.  I HAD to see this picture.  Buckley and Vidal are utterly deliciously vicious on screen together.  They politely despised one another.  One one hand it would be nice to see these fellas actually debate an issue without resorting to insults but then their insults are beautifully crafted and poetic.  I didn't want it to end.  Both men are polar opposites in most everything and I like them both.  I love hearing them speak.  I can appreciate what they say to a degree but it's how they say it.  The film gives us plenty of that as well as the framing of the 'debates' with everything that's going on around them concerning the Republican and Democratic conventions and the national and world scene.  The filmmakers give us all the context we need to add dimension to the picture and they go beyond 1968 for decades to show how far reaching these 10 brief moments in time affected each other and news television as a whole.  There were moments where I was literally on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next round of insults.  The suspense was thick (and with the help of Kirkscey's Philip Glass-ian score).  Then, moments later, I'm laughing my ass off.  This is one of the most delightful and informative films I've seen in a while.  It wasn't but a few weeks ago that I watched GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA (2013) on Netflix.  I'm sure the debate was mentioned but I've completely forgotten about it.  I need to give it another spin.  That was a great film on its own.  ENEMIES is currently in the theater and who knows how long it will be before a physical media release will be but I anxiously await it.  Consider it bought.

Hellboy (2004)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Pter Briggs

Composer: Marco Beltrami

Starring: Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, Ruper Evans, Karel Roden, Jeffrey Tambor, Doug Jones, Brian Steele, Ladislav Beran, Biddy Hodson, Corey Johnson, Kevin Trainor, Brian Caspe, James Babson, David Hyde Pierce

More info: IMDb

Tagline: From the Dark Side to Our Side

Plot: A demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the Nazis, grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Ron Perlman makes this movie and that's a fact.  Look it up.  Ask anybody.  He really brings the character to life.  He's such a perfect fit that I can't imagine anyone else in the role.  The picture starts out with Nazis in WWII opening a portal to hell which is really neat but it takes a while before we get to spending time with the adult Hellboy which is just a little bit of a drag but it's still entertaining.  Then it's Perlman's show and that's where it really gets fun.  I saw this only once before and that was in the theater.  It's an entertaining picture and it's good but it's not great.  I have no clue what it would take to make it even better.  Except for Perlman it's missing that spark that would elevate it.  I don't know.  I hope one day I someone can explain to me why del Toro has a hard-on for giving every single moving thing on screen big sound.  Abe quickly lowers his hand, an action that makes no sound in the real world but here it's loud.  Rasputin has worms moving under his skin and they're really loud when you see it.  They don't make a peep when you don't.  I realize this isn't the real world we're dealing with but it would be nice if every.fucking.thing didn't make a noise.  That's my beef.  I'm done.  Now it's time to watch the sequel for the last time (I think).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Arabian Nights (1942)

Director: John Rawlins

Writers: Michael Hogan, True Boardman

Composer: Frank Skinner

Starring: Jon Hall, Maria Montez, Sabu, Leif Erickson, Billy Gilbert, Edgar Barrier, Richard Lane, Turhan Bey, John Qualen, Shemp Howard

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Dashing Thieves of Baghdad...riding out of the magic and splendor of

Plot: The caliph of Baghdad must go into hiding with a group of traveling performers when his brother usurps the throne. Both brothers desire a beautiful dancing girl, who is torn between power and true love.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

Good movie.  The Technicolor looks amazing.  I can imagine seeing this in '42 and being blown away.  It's a good rousing adventure film with great sets, wonderful costumes, hubba hubba babes, dashing leading men, elevating score and an all around good time.  Hell, how could you not enjoy a non-3 Stooges movie where Shemp plays Sinbad?  He's hilarious in this picture.  It's clearly made for a younger crowd with some slapstick thrown in but it's not so pervasive that it'll bug the bejesus out of you.  It's not in my top tier of go-to adventure flicks but it's certainly worth watching.  The Universal DVD has a gorgeous print and the extras included are the trailer and an introduction by Robert Osborne (from TCM) where he gives you some neat info behind the production of the picture, just like he does on TCM (about 3 minutes).

Monday, September 21, 2015

Killing Them Softly (2012)

Director: Andrew Dominik

Writers: Andrew Dominik, George V. Higgins

Starring: Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Vincent Curatola, Ray Liotta, Trevor Long, Max Casella, Sam Shepard, Slaine

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In America you're on your own

Plot: Jackie Cogan is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local criminal economy to collapse.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I digs me some crime and this one is one I can sink my teeth into. Some find this too slow but I don't.  It's well-paced with an interesting story and a great cast.  Brad Pitt is better than usual and less Brad Pitt-ish than normal, Richard Jenkins is great, James Gandolfini can do no wrong, Ray Liotta is always a pleasure and I would've love to see him in more of this, Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn work well together in the plot that gets things going. With a plot that involves three guys knocking off a mob card game and you can see that at least one of them is a fuckup, you know people are going to die and it's not just the title that conveys that. The thing is, they've got a pretty good reason as to why they'll be able to get away with it when the fingers are all going to point to someone else.  It's a well acted and shot film that stays firmly rooting around in the underbelly of society.  I really dug it.It's currently on Netflix streaming.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962)

Director: John Frankenheimer

Writers: Guy Trosper, Thomas E. Gaddis

Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Karl Malden, Thelma Ritter, Neville Brand, Betty Field, Telly Savalas, Edmond O'Brian, Hugh Marlowe, Whit Bissell, Crahan Denton, James Westerfield

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Now the world will know the story of the most defiant man alive!

Plot: A surly convicted murderer held in permanent isolation redeems himself when he becomes a renowned bird expert.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

A while back I got to go to Alcatraz a few times.  It's really, really cool, inside and out, especially if the San Francisco weather is nice and it was.  I learned a lot and I heard from several of the park rangers that much of what happens in this movie is horseshit.  The biggest lie, which started with Gaddis titling his book, is that once Stroud (Lancaster in the film) was transferred to Alcatraz, he was no longer able to have birds with pets or have any contact with animals.  He was also a violent psychopath, something the movie fails to address.  If you watch this picture as pure entertainment with little based in fact then you can enjoy it for what it is.  It's a good film when you leave the baggage behind.  Lancaster gives a quiet performance not unlike many roles you might have seen him in.  The supporting cast is great, especially Neville Brand as the guard Stroud interacts with most often.  He gives the guard, Bull Ransom, 3 dimensions, which is rare in prison films.  I'd probably hold onto the MGM DVD if it had any extras other than the trailer (which is fullscreen) and the film was presented in anamorphic widescreen (it's non-anamorphic).

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tchoupitoulas (2012)

Directors: Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross

Composer: Casey Wayne McAllister

Starring: William Zanders, Bryan Zanders, Kentrell Zanders

More info: IMDb

Plot:  In this documentary, three adolescent brothers take us on a lively journey through one immersive night in New Orleans, encountering a vibrant kaleidoscope of dancers, musicians, hustlers and revelers and introducing us to the people who make the city their home.

My rating:  4/10 (I'd go higher but I was bored within minutes)

Will I watch it again? No.

I love New Orleans. It's rich with culture and it's always a great place to visit.  Because of that, I'm open to watching anything shot or set there.  This documentary isn't exactly going to make you homesick and you certainly don't get any information out of the trailer for what you're in for which is one of the weakest trailers I've ever seen and I've seen thousands.  Yeah, you get to see bits of the French Quarter and the Riverwalk areas but our three young subjects aren't a strong way to show us what the city has to offer.  I realize this wasn't made by the travel board but it's certainly not convincing by way of what we get with these kids.  Even though the youngest talks about his dreams (like wanting to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for being the first person that can fly (like Superman)) we don't get anything like that from the others.  It's often perceived that we're still with the kids as the camera goes inside bars, strip joints, brothel-like places and so on, all of which would never let these kids into in the first place.  More contrivances are the kids missing the last ferry back at night and the idea that everything in the film is presented as if it's all over the course of one night which it isn't.  Too much time is spent with the three exploring an abandoned casino on the river's edge.  They pretend to be in potential danger of being caught by authorities but it's yet another contrivance.  The best part, besides seeing tourists, street performers, hookers, etc., is when the camera is in the wings of a burlesque club, just offstage, filming Perle Noir (with the Bustout Burlesque troupe (a GREAT show if you ever get to see them live - they're fantastic!!!) do her thing and boy does she do it!!!  By the way, the name of the film is the name of a street in NO and it's pronounced CHOP-UH-TWO-LUSS.  This film is part of an Oscilloscope double DVD set with ONLY THE YOUNG (2012).  This film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and the extras you get are that WTF trailer, a 15-minute making of featurette which doesn't really tell you much (they do but it's sparse and there are long stretches of seemingly meaningless shots) but it's more of a series of stuff they didn't film for the movie and includes the directors, the crew and the three kids.  And then there are trailers for four Oscilloscope releases. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Sacrament (2013)

Director: Ti West

Writer: Ti West

Composer: Tyler Bates

Starring: Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Kentucker Audley, Gene Jone, Amy Seimetz, Kate Forbes, Conphidance, Derek Roberts, Shirley Jones Byrd, Shaun Clay, Dale Neal, Kate Lyn Sheil, Donna Biscoe

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Live as one. Die as one.

Plot: A news team trails a man as he travels into the world of Eden Parish to find his missing sister, where it becomes apparent that this paradise may not be as it seems.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

If someone had told me this was a found footage horror film I probably would've skipped it.  Instead, and thank you Netflix streaming, I came across this by chance and gave it a shot.  It's pretty damn good, surprisingly.  They did a great job with presenting the cult compound and Gene Jones (as this film's Jim Jones equivalent, Father - he's also turning up in Tarantino's THE HATEFUL 8) is ideal as the man who's running the show.  Still knowing nothing about the picture and letting it take me in it became clear early on that this was following the events of Jonestown and the mass suicide from '78.  I knew quite a bit about the incident and it was neat seeing lots of little details show up in this film.  There are some twists and turns added to the mix.  Sometimes the found footage setup works and sometimes it's obvious it's not real.  I don't know if it's possible these days to fool most folks into thinking a found footage film is real.  Besides, I'm a real skeptical fella.   LOTS of people die as you'd expect, the finale is harrowing and you really don't know until the last moment who, if any, will survive.  I really dig some of writer/director Ti West's other films.  Changing styles like this is a risk but it's one that paid off in my book.  I'd recommend watching this and then going right into a documentary (or at least reading the wiki page on it) on Jonestown.  It'd be a great double bill.  I've still never found that Jonestown-inspired film with Powers Boothe in the cult leader's role.  I needs ta see it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Gangsters: America's Most Evil (2012) TV series

Series creator & writer: Marielle Skouras

Composers: Pfilbryte, Pete Kneser, Eric Plust

Starring: Cornell Womack (narrator)

More info: IMDb

Plot: Gangsters: America's Most Evil is a cinematic documentary series that explores the rise and fall of some of the most nefarious and notorious criminals brought to justice by the United States government.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? YES!!!

From the first few minutes of episode 1 I was hooked.  The episodes (currently streaming on Netlix) are about 45 minutes.  Womack's narration is great.  His deep, raspy voice aurally sets the tone.  The music is well-integrated, the photos, footage and pacing fill out the rest.  Man, and the subjects and stories are interesting as hell.   And the series colors hardcore criminals of every color and gender.   I love stuff like this and I REALLY miss the true crime show CITY CONFIDENTIAL (1998) (both A&E shows, btw).   The pisser with both shows is their lack of DVD presence.  I binge-watched the shit out of this one over the course of a week and that's a lot of viewing but it was so compelling that I couldn't stop.  It's been a few months since I did that and now I'm about ready to watch it all over again. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Falling Down (1993)

Director: Joel Schumacher

Writer: Ebbe Roe Smith

Composer: James Newton Howard

Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey, Rachel Ticotin, Tuesday Weld, Frederic Forrest, Lois Smith, Joey Hope Singer, Raymond J. Barry, D.W. Lydecker, Steve Park, John Fleck, Brent Hinkley, Dedee Pfeiffer, Jack Betts, Al Mancini, John Diehl

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The adventures of an ordinary man at war with the everyday world.

Plot: An unemployed defense worker frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society, begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not

I haven't seen this since it came out and my opinion hasn't changed.  It's a good movie but with missed opportunities.  Too many people react to Bill (Douglas) in the way that suits the plot and how he needs them to so that he can prove his point.  The construction worker in the park and on the street for example.  They're unnecessarily rude as if to go out of their way to be mean spirited.  The rocket launcher scene was unrealistic and over the top.  The fast food restaurant scene is messed up.  Bill wants breakfast but they stopped serving breakfast two minutes earlier and the manager refuses to serve him.  Yet minutes later, once the manager gives in because Bill's busted out the machine gun, he instructs the employee to give him what he wants and she merely turns around and takes one of many boxes under a heat lamp and hands it to him.  Really?  The food was already there but he was going to refuse it to him?  I guess my disappointment in this picture is that there is a really good, hard-biting story buried in this Hollywood treatment of it. I love Douglas but here he's not always convincing as someone who's lost their marbles like he's supposed to have.  On the flipside, Pendergast (Duvall) works nicely.  You can see his arc, you know what he's thinking and he's a lot more grounded in reality.   The story is easy and topical enough that it could be remade every generation.  The Warner Bros. DVD has a nice print and only a trailer for an extras (both anamorphic widescreen).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Beach Party (1963)

Director: William Asher

Writer: Lou Rusoff

Composer: Les Baxter

Starring: Robert Cummings, Dorothy Malone, Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Morey Amsterdam, Harvey Lembeck, Eva Six, John Ashley, Jody McCrea, Dick Dale and the Del Tones, Andy Romano, Vincent Price

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When 10,000 kids meet on 5,000 Beach Blankets ... something's bound to happen!

Plot: Anthropology Professor Robert Orwell Sutwell and his secretary Marianne are studying the sex habits of teenagers. The surfing teens led by Frankie and Dee Dee don't have much sex but they sing, battle the motorcycle rats and mice led by Eric Von Zipper and dance to Dick Dale and the Del Tones.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I'm not the target audience for these beach flicks but I will watch them all but only once.  If they were made post-1980 I wouldn't.  There's something about these movies that came at the right time to be able to watch 50 years later and still be watchable on some level.  This was the first of a few starring Avalon, Funicello and Lembeck.  I'm a big fan of Lembeck so there's that excuse.  I also dig Morey Amsterdam and Robert Cummings.  But the big reason I was eager to see this was for Vincent Price.  THE HELL?  He's only in it for about ten seconds, a couple of minutes before the end credits.  What a cheat.  It's also the only time I laughed.  The songs are forgettable (unlike BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1965), a better film and memorable tunes).  The comedy in these things is about as broad as it gets and just about every character is a live action cartoon.  It does have a certain level of silly fun if you're inclined.  The MGM DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print & trailer, the only extra.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Satan's Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels (2012)

Director: Joshua M. Dragotta

Composer: Anthony Marsico

Starring: Angel Walker, Vic Crotwell, Dixie Evans, Kitten Natividad, Michelle L'Amour, Ginger Lynn, Lilli Von Schtupp, Terry Earp, Angie Pontani, Tara Mi Sioux, Big Fanni Anni, Miss Kitty Baby

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A candid glimpse into the life of burlesque's hottest legend

Plot: Satan's Angel is a legend among burlesque dancers. Her legacy is filled with San Francisco counter culture, Las Vegas stage door Johnnies, and a sexuality she refused to closet. Angel has amassed four decades worth of fascinating, colorful, and riveting stories as she's traveled the globe performing the art of burlesque. This unique film documents her love for the craft and preservation of burlesque as well as her love for her life partner Vic.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

I loves me some burlesque so it was a no-brainer picking up this DVD a couple of years back.  I hope I paid less than ten bucks for it because it wasn't as good as I had hoped.  I say that because it's usually not cool watching someone talk about how awesome they are.  Angel is very proud of herself (which is natural) but she's also much too vocal about singing her own praises (not cool).  It was great seeing some of the gals who performed back in the 60s and 70s talk about their experiences in the business.  Those were the best moments.  For that, it's worth watching.  You do get to see lots of vintage pictures and some video, also very cool.  It was interesting, though, that big bones are made about her twirling tassels which are on fire only to see just a couple of seconds of her doing it but not from way back when (which would have been AWESOME) but from a recent gig she'd done (actually it was in the parking lot at the venue after gig since they couldn't have fire inside).  If you're into burlesque or just B-curious, you'll probably dig it.  It moves pretty quickly and there's a good deal of information bandied about.  The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print and lots of extras. You get a 16-minute video podcast with the two directors, a 6-minute interview with them and Angel from the Scottsdale Arizona Film Festival, a 1-minute clip of Angel talking about how she came about her name, 3 minutes of her talking about her 1960s all-girl topless band The Hummingbirds, 2 minutes with Angel talking about meeting Steve McQueen (this and the previous two are more like deleted scenes), two trailers for the film and trailers for other Breaking Glass films, and a bunch of very short (sub-one minute) promo videos that are either teasers taken from the film, the Kickstarter campaign, poster, soundtrack, etc.  You can pick it up online new for $6 all day long.  Fans of burlesque will be happy.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hello I Must Be Going (2012)

Director: Todd Louiso

Writer: Sarah Koskoff

Composer: Laura Veirs

Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, John Rubinstein, Sara Chase, Caniel Eric Gold, Tori Feinstein, Dave T. Koenig

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Meet Amy Minsky. She's just getting over her divorce.

Plot: Circumstances force a young divorcée to move back in with her parents in suburban Connecticut, where an affair with a younger guy rejuvenates her passion for life.

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Holy smokes, I didn't recognize Melanie Lynskey at all and I had just a few days ago watched HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994) for the second time.  Wow.  This romantic comedy is light on the funny.  It's more drama, really. It's pleasant enough to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon with but I didn't find it anything but.  I liked the ending which is positive but not in a cheap Hollywood kind of way.  Amy's (Lynskey) arc worked out well and it was nice to see the shift from her positive relationship to her father move to her mother.  The Oscilloscope DVD comes with some extras including an interview with the writer and director (11 minutes), an interview with Lynskey (8 minutes), the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen) and trailer for 4 Oscilloscope films.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

American Graffiti (1973)

Director: George Lucas

Writers: George Lucas, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck

Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Wolfman Jack, Bo Hopkins, Manuel Padilla Jr., Beau Gentry, Harrison Ford, Joe Spano, Suzanne Somers

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Where were you in '62?

Plot: A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.

My rating:9/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Who would've thought that the genius behind STAR WARS (1977) made this picture just a few years before?  I think I've seen this flick about ten times in the last 35+ years and it never gets old.  In fact, it's still just as comforting as it ever was. Besides the great classic song soundtrack, INCREDIBLE cast (courtesy of casting directors Mike Fenton and Fred Ross) and gorgeous cars, I'm really taken with the pacing and organic nature of the storytelling.  It all takes place over the course of one night and it feels genuine.  These people aren't acting, they're living and recreating experiences.  I was a few years away from existence when this film takes place but I feel like I'm one of their pals hanging out and having fun just the same.  I only saw the sequel once in the early 80s and that was just to see Harrison Ford's bit part.  I need to give that one a spin now.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (2012)

Director:  Chris James Thompson

Writers: Chris James Thompson, Andrew Swant, Joe Riepenhoff

Composer: Robert Mulrennan

Starring: Andrew Swant, Pamela Bass, Jeffrey Jentzen, Pat Kennedy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: How close were you to the most infamous serial killer of our time?

Plot: An experimental documentary that uses archival footage, interviews, and fictionalized scenarios to tell the story of the people around Jeffrey Dahmer, during the summer of his arrest in 1991.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Sure.

Here's a different approach to telling story that has been told many, many times.  The talking heads are here but what's different is that they're fascinating stories are interspersed with docu-drama footage of Dahmer (played by co-writer Swant) going about his daily business at his various jobs and the kinds of seemingly mundane activities that he used to get what he wanted.  You often get to hear the audio of the talking heads over the video of the drama portions.  Combined with the droning and moody score, it makes for a darkly soothing tale.  I've seen several serial killer docs but I haven't seen one made like this one.  Even if you're familiar with the Dahmer story, check this one out (it's currently on Netflix streaming).  You might not learn much more than you know but it's a nice presentation that shouldn't go over-looked.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How to Steal a Million (1966)

Director: William Wyler

Writers: George Bradshaw, Harry Kurnitz

Composer: John Williams

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Eli Wallach, Hugh Griffith, Charles Boyer, Fernand Gravey, Marcel Dalio, Jacques Marin, Moustache, Roger Treville, Edward Malin, Bert Bertram

More info: IMDb

Tagline: S-S-S-H-H-H-H-H - Meet a couple of smart operators who give a lesson in love and larceny

Plot: Nicole's father, a legendary art collector, lends his prized Cellini Venus to a prestigious Paris museum. Unfortunately, the Venus was *not* sculpted by Cellini but by Nicole's grandfather. (Her father is a forger as well, but his specialty is paintings.) Before tests can be done which would prove the Venus a fake, Nicole enlists the services of "society burglar" Simon Demott to steal the million dollar statue.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

One word sums this up perfectly, delightful.  It's in the performances, the gorgeous scenery, the comedy, the relationship between Simon (O'Toole) and Nicole (Hepburn), John Williams' score, everything.  It's been a good twenty years since I saw this and it's even better than before.  At two hours, you'll be surprised at how quickly it moves and it's over before you know it.  It's a 123 minute smile. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Chef (2014)

Director: Jon Favreau

Writer: Jon Favreau

Starring: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, Robert Downey Jr.

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Starting from scratch never tasted so good.

Plot: A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

Story-wise, CHEF is a conventional, by the numbers Hollywood film.  It hits the beats that you'd expect.  A professional man who takes pride in his work like an artist and decides to shed his corporate structure and strike out on his own to do things his way.  He's got a strained relationship with his young son and uses the opportunity to get closer to him.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, it's been done to death.  But Favreau takes the tired formula and, despite the abundance of cliches, makes an entertaining and really fun picture.  It's very upbeat, the pacing is great, the images of food are fetishistic, the performances are fun and, for the most part, there's very little conflict.  I was really digging the picture and it seemed like everything was going really well with nothing getting in the way of Carl (Favreau) and his son's, Percy (Anthony) happiness when suddenly Carl throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing shortly before the end (they really waited to the last minute on the friction) which felt about as forced as you can get.  WTF?  It's like spending the weekend at Disneyworld and you're having a blast with your parents and you couldn't be getting along any better and then as you're walking back to the car on the last day your dad turns to you and says, "Get the fuck in the car, I'm taking you back to the orphanage."  It's about as fucked up as that.  I hated it.  It's such a great ride and I kept thinking how nice this was that there's nothing bad happening and then BAM!  It's not shocking that the film ends on a very happy note but the tremendous emotional impact you get from that is not made any more powerful because of the bullshit move Carl pulls on his son.  The film was strong enough to not need that.  I've been bitching about this type of scenario for years.  Wouldn't it be nice to see a movie that's all happy and fun with no conflict?  Favreau almost made one.  Despite that frustrating bit of business it's still a great flick.  It's currently streaming on Netflix. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Film Geek (2005)

Director: James Westby

Writer: James Westby

Composer: Jason Wells

Starring: Melik Malkasian, Ritah Parrish, John Breen, Dennis Adkins, Tara Walker, Taylor Nida, Daphne Carver, Kristen Torrianni, MIchelle Garner, Michael Ramirez, Jack Ryan, Kim Hill

More info: IMDb

Tagline: His Knowledge is your misery.

Plot: The story of Scotty Pelk, a socially inept video store clerk who gets fired from his job and becomes a sensation as an online film critic.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not.

You don't have to have much of a budget to make a good film.  There are some good performances here and some really funny shit like Scotty (Malkasian) frequently masturbating in the sink.  I'm sure most people will find Scotty or Malkasian's performance annoying as shit, much like just about everyone around him but then he's supposed to be that way.  He really knows his shit when it comes to movies and he's super passionate about it that all he wants to do is spread the love, except when he's spreading his love into the sink.  I sympathize with him except for the yankin' it in the sink part but I'm not annoying or bothersome like this guy.  This dude creeps me out a bit.  Here's a fun scene that's a little funny if it weren't so awkward (having invested the time watching Scotty up until this point because you know he's not going to take this well - you can get a glimpse of his video store work in the trailer).

Writer/director Westby takes four full minutes to fire Scotty which is a lot but it works very well and the scene doesn't overstay its welcome one bit.  For the most part the rest of the picture feels the same way but then there's the huge WTF with the happy ending.  It comes out of left field and it feels awkwardly shoe-horned in.  One of three things happened; it's real and it's either played as a joke on Hollywood's penchant for happy endings, or it's real and Westby handled it poorly as if to quickly wrap the film up or, and this is a good possibility, the happy ending is Scotty's fantasy cooked up to cope with his miserable life.  Even if the latter is true, there should have been more of a clue (either comically or with painful sadness) that this is in Scotty's head.  I'm actually OK with it being a dream or reality but considering how the film played out before it, the end should have been clearer.  I only watched it on Netflix streaming about a year ago (yeah, I'm that far behind in reviews) and it's no longer available that way.  Maybe the DVD has some insightful extras.  I'd actually watch it again with some commentary if it were available.  For film buffs this is definitely worth a look.  It's fun even if it's not entirely satisfying.  It's at least got me interested in seeing what else Westby has created. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (1997)

Director: Tom Schulman

Writer: Tom Schulman

Composer: Andrew Gross

Starring: Joe Pesci, Andy Comeau, Kristy Swanson, George Hamilton, Dyan Cannon, David Spade, Todd Louiso, Anthony Mangano, Joe Basile, Ernestine Mercer

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Meet Tommy Spinelli. He's got two days to deliver this bag, or more heads are gonna roll.

Plot: A mob bagman finds that his luggage, containing the proof of his latest hit, has been switched.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Not funny.  The script feels like it needs a lot more tuning and that would require changing a lot of the scenes.  I can't blame the cast. No one's dropping the ball in that department.  Pesci's role is underwritten.  His character, Tommy, should have had a lot more to do.  Hell, one of the biggest problems, and this is script related, is that this wildly talented cast (Dyan Cannon and George Hamilton have been funny as shit in other movies but not in this one) isn't utilized to even half capacity.  In each of those three I've mentioned so far, there's an inkling that they might be but obviously aren't.  David Spade probably came off the best (as far as anyone you might recognize).  The only time I laughed, and it was a good one, was when Tommy dreams that the heads are singing (all 8 are placed along the top of a dresser).  THAT was funny but it was a long wait for it. This isn't a horrible picture (The pacing was good) but it's definitely under-cooked. The MGM DVD delivers the film in anamorphic widescreen and the sole extra is the non-anamorphic widescreen trailer.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Wendy and Lucy (2008)

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Writers: Kelly Reichardt, Jonathan Raymond

Starring: Michelle Williams, Lucy the dog, Michelle Worthey, Will Oldham, Wally Dalton, John Robinson, John Breen, Will Patton, Larry Fessenden

More info: IMDb

Tagline: On the long road, friendship is everything.

Plot: A woman's life is derailed en route to a potentially lucrative summer job. When her car breaks down, and her dog is taken to the pound, the thin fabric of her financial situation comes apart, and she is led through a series of increasingly dire economic decisions.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Good flick.  Michelle Williams carries the picture as Wendy interacts with a variety of characters, some good and some bad. We only get a small hint as to why she's on the road with her dog, Lucy, trying to make her way to Alaska and we aren't entirely sure why she's going there.  She gets detoured in a small town where, over a couple of days, she's arrested, loses Lucy and her car dies.  It's a sad piling of events in which she is partly responsible for.  Money was tight so she didn't have to steal but that brings on a major event which will have significant consequences.  No spoilers here but her decision in the end is heartbreaking.  Was it the right one?  Maybe.  My emotions would've gotten the best of me and I would have done it differently...but then I don't think I would've resorted to stealing.  Her decision wasn't based on emotion but on reasoning and not a selfish one at that.  The ending is very good and it's right for the film regardless of what I or you think we would've done.  Now you're curious, right?  Check it out.  It's a good character piece with a good cast and performances.  There's no score which is odd but it works with the film.  After seeing this and MEEK'S CUTOFF (2010) in the span of one day I'm keen to see Reichardt's other work.  I like her voice.  Sadly, there are no extras on the Oscilloscope DVD for this film but there are for others.  You get trailers for 12 Oscilloscope pictures and Five short films chosen by the director from her colleagues at Bard College to include BOSTON FIRE, NEW YORK PORTRAIT #2 (by Peter Hutton), FLIGHT by Les LeVeque, THE SCARY MOVIE by Peggy Ahwesh and HOW TO FIX THE WORLD by Jacqueline Goss.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Thief (1981)

Director: Michael Mann

Writers: Michael Mann, Frank Hohimer

Composer: Tangerine Dream

Starring: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, James Belushi, Robert Prosky, Tom Signorelli, Dennis Farina, Nick Nickeas, W.R. Brown, William Peterson,

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Tonight, his take home pay is $410, free.

Plot: Becoming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safecracker agrees to do a job for the mafia, who have other plans for him.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Man, I haven't seen this in nearly thirty years.  It's even better than I remember.  James Caan is a badass.  I love that guy.  Robert Prosky plays a mean heavy and it's his first feature film (as well as Belushi's,  Farina's, and Mann's).  There's a nice bit of tension that builds until the AWESOME finale that kicks all kinds of ass.  Tangerine Dream's score works so well with Mann's style and use of slow motion.  This is a great little crime caper picture that just stylish enough to make it work well with the substance.  I would LOVE to see this in a theater and it's one hell of a feature film debut from Mann. There are a lot of reasons to see this but mainly because it's that damn good.  Hell, I'm ready to watch it again. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Heartbreakers (2001)

Director: David Mirkin

Writers: Robert Dunn, Paul Guay, Stephen Mazur

Composer: John Debney

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee, Anne Bancroft, Jeffrey Jones, Gene Hackman, Nora Dunn, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Ricky Jay, Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, Carrie Fisher, Jack Shearer, Kevin Nealon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Caution: Dangerous Curves Ahead

Plot: A mother and daughter con team seduce and scam wealthy men.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

Everyone in this thing is hilarious but it was Liotta and Hackman that stole the show for my money.  These guys were brilliantly funny.  It's been a dozen or more years since I saw this but it was funnier this time around.  I loved it.  It's not without flaws.  The foley work is spotty, sometimes going too far with the cartoonish sounds like when Page (Hewitt) falls in the mud.  It literally sounds like a cartoon. I'm sure it was a deliberate choice but it felt like it was too much.  The comedy in this picture is all over the place.  There's enough farcical moments sprinkled throughout to go for the slapstick laughs but there's a lot more to it.  I guess it'd be easy to nitpick this but it's clearly over the top so you can't get too involved by comparing this to reality.  For being a two hour comedy (!!!) it moves pretty quickly.  The only thing that slowed the picture down was when Max (Weaver) is singing with the band.  That went on way too long and I wasn't laughing.  I also wasn't given final cut approval.  No one bothered to contact me at all now that I think about it.  Anyway, it's a really funny movie that has enough belly laughs to ease the slower, dramatic sections.  Ray Liotta kills me in this.  He should do more comedy.  The MGM DVD has got more extras than you'd think for this picture.  There are two commentaries (one with the director and one with him and Weaver and Hewitt), a making of freaturette (22 minutes), another featurette focusing on the funny (12 minutes), 23 minutes of deleted scenes and trailers for this film (anamorphic wide) and THE PRINCESS BRIDE (fullscreen trailer for the DVD release).

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (2014)

Director: Joe Berlinger

Composer: Wendy Blackstone

Starring: James 'Whitey' Bulger, Stephen Rakes, Tommy Donahue, David Boeri, Steve Davis, Dick Lehr, Shelley Murphy, Patricia Donahue, J.W. Carney Jr., Kevin Cullen

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The FBI thought they had him. It was the other way around.

Plot: From Academy Award-nominated director Joe Berlinger, Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger is a sweeping and revelatory documentary film that follows the trial of the infamous gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, using the courtroom action as a springboard to examine accusations of multi-faceted corruption within our nation's law enforcement and legal systems.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

If you'd like a frame of reference for who this guy is, Jack Nicholson's character in THE DEPARTED (2006) was loosely based on him.  He ruled the Boston underworld for a lot of years.  I guess you could say he was a man of honor.  He admits to being a murderer, drug dealer, and all 'round bad criminal type but even though he clearly cooperated with the FBI, he denied it to the end.  He was a rat but he had his own spin on it.  It's clear that he was a cheese-lovin', disease-ridden rodent, fleas and all. This film takes us through his life, from his being on the lam for something like 16 years and finally getting caught at the age of 81.  SPOILER ALERT...he'll die in prison.  END OF SPOILERS...YARRRRR!  I love true crime docs and movies so I'll definitely return to this one someday.  It's currently streaming on Netflix.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ups and Downs (1937)

Director: Roy Mack

Writers: Jack Henley, Cyrus Wood

Composers: Saul Chaplin, Sammy Cahn

Starring: Hal Le Roy, June Allyson, Toni Lane, The Deauville Boys, Fred Hillebrand, Phil Silvers, Reed Brown Jr., Alexander Campbell

More info: IDMb

Plot: June Daily, daughter of stockbroker J. C. Daily, is engaged to father's assistant Richard Burton, but is enamored of tap-dancing elevator operator Hal Smith. J.C. has a hot tip on stock for the Upsadaisy Elevator Company. When Richard goes out of town, June invites Hal to dinner with J.C. J.C. is no snob, and seizes the opportunity to ask an "expert" about Upsadaisy Elevators. Hal gives them a ringing endorsement, and J.C. buys all the stock he can get. When Richard learns this, he breaks his engagement to June, thinking J.C. has gone broke. But the stock flourishes, and J.C. introduces Hal as his new partner and future son-in-law.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

Man, can that Hal Le Roy dance!  Watching those feet move so effortlessly is an absolute joy.  His singing didn't match that talent but who cares?  Hell, it's worth watching if only to see a 26 year old Phil Silvers in his first silver screen appearance.  The story about stocks and elevators is OK but it's only their to hang some song and dance routines on with a little bit of light comedy.  This short is one of the few extras on the Warner Bros. DVD for STAGE DOOR (1937), an excellent film on its own.