Thursday, February 12, 2015

DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)

Director: Corey Yuen

Writers: J.F. Lawton, Adam Gross, Seth Gross

Composer: Junkie XL

Starring: Jaime Pressly, Devon Aoki, Holly Valance, Sarah Carter, Natassia Malthe, Kane Kosugi, Matthew Marsden, Eric Roberts, Steve Howey, Brian White, Kevin Nash, Collin Chou, Derek Boyer, Silvio Simac, Fang Liu, Ying Wang

More info:  IMDb

Tagline: They have the looks... That KILL

Plot: Four gorgeous women are invited to a remote island to participate in a fighting tournament.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

In the opening minutes of the picture my mouth was agape at how ridiculous it was and how awful the acting and dialogue were.  A few minutes later we're introduced to Tina (Pressly) and it gets even more ridiculous.  That's when I realized that everyone involved with the picture was totally in on the joke and they were having fun with it.  From that point on it was a lot easier to take.  If you can't laugh at it then you should turn it off after ten minutes.  It's over the top, sometimes dumb as shit but it's also kind of fun.  The girl that plays the princess didn't put in a good performance.  It's bad from the start.  Jaime Pressly is great (she's funny as shit on MY NAME IS EARL and any fan of her in that show needs to check this out) and Kevin Nash made for a great team as daughter and father.  Being a big dumb fun movie like this means there's some funny injected and a lot of the jokes work.  The story and the action play out just like you think it would considering this is based on a video game and it works on that level.  It's a lot more enjoyable than you think it'd be and it's better than more than a few big budget action movies I've seen lately.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

This Filthy World (2006)

Director: Jeff Garlin

Writer: John Waters

Composers: Jared Gutstadt, Lukas Kaiser

Starring: John Waters

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Philosopher of filth and reigning king of bad taste, John Waters presents an outstanding live one-man show that celebrates his origins of trash.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I'm a HUGE fan of Waters.  I enjoy his pictures and I love hearing his stories about making movies and anything else he wants to talk about.  That said, I was disappointed with this, his one man show that he took on the road and performed to sold out audiences.  He's had a wild career and he's a really interesting cat.  In the show, he speeds through his career so fast that he had to have burned more calories than a brisk one hour walk. He's like lightning and it sounds like he's on a schedule and has to split, the way he goes from one story to the next.  It's either his segues are very awkward or there are none and he just rambles right to the next.  It was really odd. I still dig the guy's stories and I'm keen to listen to him any time.  I should check his DVDs on my shelf and see if they have any commentaries. I'm sure they do and I'm willing to be that he's a lot more relaxed and probably more focused instead of sounding like he's rushing through dialogue to get to the end of the night.  I'm going to a con very soon where he'll be in attendance.  He's going to perform this concert and I'm less inclined to go but then a lot may have changed in the past 9 years and maybe he's gotten a lot more comfortable with his role on the stage.  We'll see.

Ghostbusters II (1989)

Director: Ivan Reitman

Writers: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis

Composer: Randy Edelman

Starring: Bill Murray, dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Peter MacNicol, Harris Yulin, David Margulies, Kurt Fuller, Janet Margolin, Cheech Marin, Brian Doyle-Murray, Philip Baker Hall, Max von Sydow, Wilhelm von Homburg

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Be ready to believe us.

Plot: The discovery of a massive river of ectoplasm and a resurgence of spectral activity allows the staff of Ghostbusters to revive the business.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Here's an example of a movie being made not because the original film's team felt that it had to be made but because a lot of the cast and crew wanted another summer home.  I saw this in '89 in the theater and I really didn't like it.  I held off giving it another shot until now and I feel the same way.  The story is ridiculous and there are way too many callbacks to the original film as if a sequel has to constantly reference where it came from.  I liked that all four of the guys had been faced with countless lawsuits in between films and they all ended up doing other things.  That's about all I liked.  Bill Murray tries but the material only gives him and the others so little to work with.  It's the story and script that's the weakest link.  If the story were stronger I think this could have been a much better film.  Composer Elmer Bernstein was absent for this picture and it shows.  He's sorely missed.  I like Edelman a lot but not hearing Bernstein's sound just made this flick even sadder.  I don't want to beat a dead horse any longer.  This is just one big missed opportunity that shouldn't have happened.  At least we'll always have GHOSTBUSTERS (1984), the best horror/comedy this side of the Pecos.  As for the new Paul Fieg film?  I have reservations about it but not because it's going to be a reboot with female busters (I think it's a great idea, actually, and a refreshing one) but because the original '84 film is about is perfect as you can get.  Here's hoping they don't try and do what this sequel tried to do in referencing it to death.   The Columbia DVD for G2 is shit for extras.  All you get are two episodes from the TV cartoon show.  Really?  The FUCK, Columbia!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Blown Away (1994)

Director: Stephen Hopkins

Writers: John Rice, Joe Batteer, Jay Roach

Composer: Alan Silvestri

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones, Suzy Amis, Lloyd Bridges, Forest Whitaker, stephi Lineburg, John Finn, Caitlin Clarke, Chrisopher de Oni, Loyd Catlett, Ruben Santiago-Hudson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The fuse has been lit...

Plot: An Irish bomber escapes from prison and targets a member of the Boston bomb squad.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Oh for crying out loud.  Why would Gaerity (Jones) go to such lengths with building such elaborate, Rube Goldberg-esque bombs just to kill someone?  By the end of the film the bombs got so outlandish that I actually laughed which is more of a response the rest of the film got from me.  There's so much to this picture that's over the top and, dare I say, blown way out of proportion like the aforementioned over the top bombs, the sometimes over the top action, music, direction et al.  The drama is amped up so much that it's like pouring gasoline on a fire.  The ONE thing that I really enjoyed was being toyed with when the mom and daughter are making dinner in the kitchen.  That scene was nicely handled but then you get moments with Max (Bridges) and the bomb and Anthony's (Whitaker) entrance that had me question if these things were lifted from a cartoon.  I'm not exaggerating here.  Ugh. 

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)

Director: Dito Montiel

Writer: Dito Montiel

Composer: Jonathan Elias

Starring: Dianne Wiest, Robert Downey Jr., Shia LaBeouf, Melonie Diaz, Laila Liliana Garro, Eleonore Hendricks, Adam Scarimbolo, Peter Anthony Tambakis, Channing Tatum, Chazz Palminteri, George DiCenzo, Rosario Dawson, Eric Roberts

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Queens, New York, 1986. Sometimes the only way forward, is back.

Plot: The movie is a coming-of-age drama about a boy growing up in Astoria, N.Y., during the 1980s. As his friends end up dead, on drugs or in prison, he comes to believe he has been saved from their fate by various so-called saints.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I hadn't seen so much as a trailer for this and I had no idea what to expect.  It's pretty bleak and at times I was unsure of what it was trying to say because the film touches on lots of experiences these kids had and then flashes forward to show what became of them, focusing on Dito (RDJ & LaBeouf), the cat that wrote and directed this based on his life growing up in NYC.  Damn, that's a long ass sentence.  It also feels like a pastiche of different movies like GOODFELLAS (1990) and BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997).  The performances are strong and it's well shot but I never connected with any of the characters enough to even passivly care about them.  This might be just a me thing.  Not that it matters but I didn't grow up in a big city nor in an environment like that or situations similar.  It's not necessary that I share anything with a character to like him/her but I couldn't help but wonder if it would've helped in this case.  The First Look DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with a few extras including a commentary track with the director and editor, a 20 minute making of featurette, an alternate opening and ending, 11 deleted scenes with optional commentary from the director, the rooftop scene as acted by the director and Helen Davis from a workshop at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival (with optional director's commentary), three trailers for the film, a two minute interview with the director's father, Monty, Diana Carcamo's audition tape for the role of Young Laurie and trailers for 4 other films.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949)

Director: Le Sholem

Writers: Curt Siodmak, Harry Chandlee

Composer: Alexander Laszio

Starring: Lex Barker, Brenda Joyce, Albert Dekker, Evelyn Ankers, Charles Drake, Alan Napier, Ted Hecht, Henry Brandon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: New Daring! New Dangers!

Plot: An aviatrix emerges from the jungle looking as young as she was when her plane went down many years before. Unscrupulous hunters discover that this is due to a secret fountain of youth. Tarzan tries to keep the hunters from finding the hidden valley setting of the fountain. The flyer ages as the effects of the fountain wear off.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe. 

A while back I picked up the Warner Bros. Archive Collection box set of the Lex Barker Tarzan pictures (and another set with someone else as Tarzan whose name escapes me) and I finally got around to it (that's the trouble with having so many movies at your fingertips).  Now I realize these aren't made to be taken all that seriously and they're largely geared toward kids but for cryin' out loud, does there have to be so much Cheetah hijinks?  Other than that it's a pretty good and polished jungle adventure.  Baxter makes a good Tarzan but it's before the movie Tarzan became more sophisticated.  At this point he's still the "Me, Tarzan.  You, Jane." stage and he's not ready for afternoon tea parties, unless of course bonehead chimps are the guests of honor.  I don't mean to rail too hard on the little buggers.  They are cute as hell but there's about two too many gags with Cheetah and pals covering their eyes to avoid seeing Jane naked or fiddling around with electronics they don't understand.  TMF isn't a bad way to kill 73 minutes and even though it's not one of my favorite Tarzan pictures, it's not bad enough that I can't see watching this one again sometime.  A couple of neat asides, Alan "Batman '66's Alfred" Napier has a small role and the very first filmed Tarzan, Elmo Lincoln, can be spotted as a fisherman.  Now that's a neat cameo.  I'll have to watch for him next time...and get around to watching TARZAN OF THE APES (1918) someday. 

Reno 911!: Miami (2007)

Director: Robert Ben Garant

Writers: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Kerri Kenney

Composer: Craig Wedren

Starring: Lennie Loftin, Danny DeVito, Robert Ben Garant, Niecy Nash, Mary Birdsong, Kerri Kenney, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Carlos Alazraqui, Cedric Yarbrough, Thomas Lennon, David Koechner, Patton Oswalt, Paul Rudd, Nick Swardson, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, Mindy Sterling, Paul Reubens, Oscar Nunez, Dwayne Johnson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In a time of crisis, America will call Reno 911!

Plot: Reno's most unpredictable team of cops must spring into action after a terrorist attack disrupts the national police convention in Miami Beach during Spring Break.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I've never seen the show but after laughing my ass off watching this flick, I'm totally ready to start.  Holy shit was this funny.  OMFG.  Every single one of these characters from the show is fucking hilarious.  I absolutely love the raunchiness and fake outs in this flick.  The sex scene had me rolling and the masturbation scene at the hotel was just brilliantly funny.  This has got some serious replay value and it's a good one to watch with a group and some booze (not that you needs tha liquor to enjoy it).  It's a damn shame they never made another RENO 911 picture.  I get the giggles just thinking about some of the outlandish shit.  I'm going to have to get the series because the complete series (6 seasons) is on Amazon for $25 right now.  After watching this, that price is just right to take a chance on what's probably one of the funniest shows I never took a chance on.  The 20th Century Fox DVD (I've got the unrated version) has 3 commentaries (!), 6 extended scenes with optional commentary, the anamorphic widescreen trailer, 4 PSAs (public service announcements), a 5 minute Fox Movie Channel presents world premiere and a couple of trailers for FAMILY GUY and GRANDMA'S BOY.  I'm going to add those commentaries to my list someday. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979)

Directors: Allan Arkush, Joe Dante

Writers: Richard Whitley, Russ Dvonch, Joseph McBride, Allan Arkush, Joe Dante

Composer: Rock songs

Starring:  P.J. Soles, Vincent Van Patten, Clint Howard, Dey Young, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Dick Miller, Don Steele, Alix Elias, Loren Lester, Daniel Davies, Lynn Farrell, Herbie Braha, The Ramones

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Hey ho, Let's go!

Plot: A group of rock-music-loving students, with the help of the Ramones, take over their school to combat its newly installed oppressive administration.

My rating:  5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

What essentially is a teen comedy masquerading as a 93 minute commercial for the band, The Ramones, fans of Roger Corman's films of the 70s will recognize a lot of familiar faces (that was my favorite part as is with a lot of his pictures during that decade).  A lot of the acting is, as required, over the top but it works for what it's trying to be. One gag that I found incredibly funny was the paper airplane that took a tour of the school.  Hilarious.  You know what else was hilarious?  Joey Ramone's hideously bad,  utterly hysterically horrible acting.

Did you hear him at the 1:14 mark?  WOW! The movie has some sporadic laughs but there's a lot of irritating for cats like me.  I can totally see how people could really dig this film to an extreme.  Maybe if I'd caught it when it came out I'd be more inclined to dig it but not since I got around to finally seeing it 35 years too late.  The soundtrack is fun and it feels like the cast and crew had a great time making the picture, it's just not my bag right now.  The New World Pictures DVD has some extras including a 4 minute interview with Corman by Leonard Martin (it's great but way too short), 12 minutes of The Ramones from the concert in the film, 15 minutes of audio outtakes from the live recording The Ramones made for the picture, the original trailer (anamorphic widescreen), a commentary track with the director,Arkush, producer Michael Finnell and screenwriter Richard Whitley and trailers for EAT MY DUST, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and SATURDAY THE 14th (all fullscreen).

Wake Wood (2010)

Director: David Keating

Writers: Brendan McCarthy, David Keating

Composer: Michael Convertino

Starring: Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall, Ella Connolly, Ruth McCabe, Brian Gleeson, Amelia Crowley, Dan Gordon, Tommy McArdle, Aoife Meagher

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Beware Those You Love the Most

Plot: The parents of a girl who was killed by a savage dog are granted the opportunity to spend three days with their deceased daughter.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I hope Hammer Films has some better pictures lined up than this one.  It's not all THAT bad but then it's not something you'll come out the other side thinking this was screaming to be made.  It's a story that we've seen before but it does have a different sensibility than what you'd expect.  It's somewhat light on horror and it doesn't have much in the way of scary but the ending goes from surprisingly neat to pretty fucking fantastic to the point of making this a recommend but without any heightened expectations.  Whatever you do, stay with it until the end.  It's a British picture and it's got some Pagan-type stuff in it.  While it's nothing like THE WICKER MAN (1973), it does make me want to watch that film again (as if I needed a push to do so). 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Roads to Riches (2002)

AKA: Strange Hearts

Director: Michelle Gallagher

Writer: Michelle Gallagher

Composer: Fletcher Beasley

Starring: Robert Forster, Rose McGowan, Kip Pardue, Harry Hamlin, Andrew Heckler, Meg Wittner, Tony Santoro, Keith Adams, Kelly Donovan, Christopher Michael

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Play the game... Work the crowd... Trust no-one...

Plot: An aging former child star tries to capture the wealth that has always eluded him by latching on to a lucky man while both have their eye on the same girl of their dreams.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.


Oh, this was so close to being a really good flick.  Harry Hamlin oozes with smarmy cheese, the relationship between Jack (Forster) and Moira (Rose) was nicely handled and it's nice seeing Robert Forster in a starring role.  I didn't buy Dan (Hamlin) thinking Henry (Pardue) would be a great host.  Nope.  And with Henry, Pardue plays him like he's going to con somebody, particularly Jack but that never happens.  It was weird not having that play out like it felt.  At the same time I liked Jack so much (except for that horrible, horrible thing with him growing a mouse in a soda can) that I didn't want anything bad to happen to him and that's to the credit of Forster, even if he has a couple of unusual line readings.  And what's even better is him ending up with the girl as the credits start to roll.  Nice.  The picture's funny and it's got some really nice moments.  The HBO DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with no extras (except for text cast bios which don't count in my book).  Had this a director commentary I'd hold onto the disc to listen to it.  I bet it would be interesting.  It's definitely worth checking out.  I dug it.

The Mummy Returns (2001)

Director: Stephen Sommers

Writer: Stephen Sommers

Composer: Alan Silvestri

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velasquez, Freddie Boath, Alun Armstrong, Dwayne Johnson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Shaun Parkes, Bruce Byron

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The most powerful force on earth is about to be unleashed by the two people who should know better.

Plot: The mummified body of Imhotep is shipped to a museum in London, where he once again wakes and begins his campaign of rage and terror.

My rating:6/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

I came out of the theater from this 14 years ago pissed as hell.  I hated it so much.  THE MUMMY (1999) was a lot of fun and it still holds up as a great action flick with humor and grand adventure.  Some issues I had the first time around with this one weren't so bad on this recent second viewing. The kid's actually alright.   Because this is a sequel the film makers traded out the abundance of fun from the first one for an abundance of action and there's a lot of it.  In fact, there's way too much action and it's relentless to the point of forgetting to take the required breathers.  It's a two hour movie BEFORE the long ass end credits roll.  It's a case of giving too much and trying too hard.  We don't need to out-do the first film in a franchise.  Keep the story fun with likable characters, good action and leave us wanting more.  Don't fill my belly to the point of bursting and then try and force desert down my throat. Ugh.  The special effects are fine until the big fight at the end with the Scorpion King.  Dwayne Johnson's CGI creature looks embarrassingly bad.  It's not a bad film, there's just too damn much of it to the point of exhaustion.  The Universal DVD has lots of extras including a 3.5 minute interview with Johnson, an anamorphic widescreen trailer for THE SCORPION KING, a 20 minute featurette on the location, a director's commentary, a scant few minutes about the effects, outtakes (6 minutes), a music video for the song Live Forever May Not Be Long Enough, the anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer, a special message from Oded Fehr (less than a minute) and a PS2 video game trailer.  That's a lot of weak filler extras.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

Directors: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang

Writers: Jason Richman, Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang

Composer: Brian Tyler

Starring:  Nicolas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Charlie Yeung, Panward Hemmanee, Nirattisai Kaljaruek, Dom Hetrakul, Tuck Napaskorn, Steve Baldocchi, Crhis Heebink, James With

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The hitman has become the target

Plot: A hitman who's in Bangkok to pull off a series of jobs violates his personal code when he falls for a local woman and bonds with his errand boy.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I was surprisingly entertained.  I'd heard a lot of crap about this flick and, being a Nicolas Cage movie, I kind of expected much, much worse.  It turns out to be pretty good.  It looks great, the action scenes are fun, Brian Tyler's score adds to it and Cage feels like the right choice.  If you don't like him then stay away from this one.  Even though his character falls for a dame, just like the often used trope goes, it doesn't seem to hurt the picture all that much.  In fact, it makes more sense that Joe (Cage) might do something like that considering where he is in his life.  The pacing is pretty good and I found myself not regretting giving up 95 minutes of my life for this.  Only now do I see that the writer/directors who made this also created the original film in 2000.  If I should come across it I'll definitely watch it.  It's probably better, Nicolas Cage or no Nicolas Cage.  The Lionsgate DVD extras include 2 making of featurettes which total around 30 minutes, an alternate ending, the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen) and a handful of anamorphic widescreen trailers for more Lionsgate pictures.

The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch (2004)

Director: Eric Idle

Writer: Eric Idle

Composer: ???

Starring: Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Ricky Fataar, David Bowie, Billy Connolly, Carrie Fisher, Jewl Kilcher, Steve Martin, Mike Nichols, Conan O'Brien, Salman Rushdie, Garry Shandling, Robin Williams, Clint Black, Jimmy Fallon, John Halsey, Tom Hanks, Graham Nash, Kevin Nealon, Catherine O'Hara, Jim Piddock, Bonnie Raitt, David A. Stewart, James Taylor, Jann Wenner

More info: IMDb

Plot: Twenty-three years after the release of the original Rutles documentary, famous artists, actors and musicians speak out on how the Rutles influenced them.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

On its own this is still pretty funny but only if you haven't seen THE RUTLES: ALL YOU NEED IS CASH (1978).  If you have seen the first film then this is utter shit.  It uses an extraordinary amount of footage from that film AND it regurgitates a lot of the same gags, making them run even longer than they should have.  It is nice seeing some of the then-current SNL players and there are some good laughs in this picture but there's no escaping the laziness of trying to pad out a film for 80 minutes where probably half of it was filmed 25 years earlier.  Still, there are enough cameos from some very funny people to make this a must-see for fans.  I can almost guarantee you'll only ever go back to the first one for revisits.  The Warner Bros. DVD has some extras including about a half hour of more interviews, 8 minutes of Eric Idle outtakes and an alternate ending. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Big Hit (1998)

Director: Kirk Wong

Writer: Ben Ramsey

Composer: Graeme Revell

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christina Applegate, Avery Brooks, Bokeem Woodbine, Antonio Sabato Jr., China Chow, Lainie Kazan, Elliott Gould

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Hit Happens

Plot: To payoff his second girlfriend's debt, hitman Melvin Smiley undertakes a kidnapping job with his usual associates. In a world of prospective Jewish in-laws and late movie fees, the hitman falls in love with the victim and must settle the score with those out to double-cross him.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I guess I don't dig much on Wahlberg.  So many times I find his performances adequate but not quite there when it comes to the tons of other guys who could do better.  Still, he's done some great work like in THE DEPARTED (2006).  Maybe it's his character that I wasn't digging on.  Anyway, he's OK in this but he's completely out-shined by Lou Diamond Phillips, a guy who's also hit and miss like Wahlberg.  He's pretty damn funny in this picture and he's probably the best thing about it.  The story gets too bogged down with the budding romance sub plot but I did find myself laughing from time to time when I wasn't otherwise bored.  It drags in spots but it's punctuated by bouts of action and comedy. The Columbia DVD has a few extras including a director's/producer's commentary, a screenwriter's commentary, 3 deleted scenes and the non-anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer. 

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)

Directors: Eric Idle, Gary Weis

Writer: Eric Idle

Composer: Neil Innes

Starring: Eric Idle, John Halsey, Ricky Fataar, Neil Innes, Michael Palin, George Harrison, Bianca Jagger, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Gwen Taylor, Ron Wood, Terence Bayler, Henry Woolf, Al Franken, Lorne Michaels, Tom Davis, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Rutles, a living legend that will live long after other living legends have died.

Plot: Charts the adventures of the prefab four, possibly the most famous band of all time.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Hilarious and brilliant. It's so fun that many parts of it feel like they just wrote themselves.  The cast and crew must have loved filming this. The Beatles song parodies are not only spot on but a lot of them are very clever and as enjoyable as the songs they're aping.  I've seen this several times over the past 35 years and I'm always amazed at how authentic a lot of the vintage video and photos look.  They really took the time, money and effort to make this look as genuine as possible and they succeeded wildly.  Then there's the cameos from Jagger and Simon playing themselves and also the SNL actors like Murray, Aykroyd, Belushi et al.  There are a lot of great gags and Idle couldn't be more suited to run the show.  It's a great mockumentary and it's possibly the first or at least one of the earliest of what has since become a genre unto its own.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Foreign Field (1993)

Director: Charles Sturridge

Writer: Roy Clarke

Composer: Geoffrey Burgon

Starring: Alec Guinness, Leo McKern, Edward Herrmann, John Randolph, Geraldine Chaplin, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Grumbar, Jeanne Moreau, Michelle Gheleyns-Hue, Cateline Alteirac

More info: IMDb

Plot: Veterans return to Normandie on the 50th anniversary of D Day for their own special and poignant reasons, among them two looking for an old love who turns out to the same woman for both.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

This feature length TV movie (an episode of SCREEN ONE) may start out like some 'cute but for old people who survived the war' picture but it ends without a dry face in the audience.  There are some good laughs and the characters are likable but man, oh man, does that last half hour pack an emotional wallop!  My face was completely wet by the time the credits rolled.  The performances are solid and so is Roy Clarke's script that starts light and fun and ends heavy and reverential.   Highly recommended. 

The Blood Beast Terror (1968)

Director: Vernon Sewell

Writer: Peter Bryan

Composer: Paul Ferris

Starring: Peter Cushing, Robert Flemyng, Wanda Ventham, Vanessa Howard, David Griffin, Glynn Edwards, William Wilde, Keven Stoney, John Paul

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Blood Lust of a FRENZIED VAMPIRE!

Plot: A scientist, working with genetics, creates a creature that is capable of transforming back and forth between a giant Death Head moth and a beautiful woman. The creature masquerades as his daughter when she is in her human incarnation and feeds on the blood of her victims when she is in the moth form.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

A giant moth as the monster in a pseudo-Hammer horror?  Sign me up.  Oh, wait, don't.  It's not nearly as much fun as it seems like it 'could' be. The acting, led by the amazing Peter Cushing is great as you'd expect with a British cast in the 60s.  The Gothic setting, clothes, locations et al do a great job of setting the look and tone of the picture.  What hurts it in a big way is the pacing.  They really try to make it seem like there's a lot in the span of about 90 minutes but I'm certain a second viewing will uncover several moments and perhaps entire scenes that could be trimmed or excised altogether.  It's not a bad film but it's shy enough from being a good one that it almost begs you to watch and compare it to most any of the Gothic Hammer horror pictures of the era.  It was made by Tigon British Film Productions, their first, who would go on to make the excellent WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) and outstanding THE BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW (1971), among others.  It's on Netflix streaming at the moment and it's one of the sadly few 60s horror movies they have.  Is it worth watching?  For Peter Cushing fans it's a no-brainer (rumor has it he's said it's his worst picture on several occasions).  There is a neat Burke & Hare-esque stage play in the film that would be neat to have seen back then (as in the 1800s).  It takes up an extraordinary amount of running time and it barely adds anything to the story but it's also one of the most entertaining parts of it. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis (1991)

Director: Robert Iscove

Writer: Alan Sharp

Composer: Craig Safan

Starring: Stacy Keach, Richard Thomas, Steve Landesberg, Don Harvey, Robert Cicchini, David Caruso, Bob Gunton, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jeffrey Nordling, Carrie Snodgress, Dale Dye, Gordon Clapp, Andrew Pine

More info: IMDb

Plot: True story of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, its crew's struggle to survive the sharks and exposure, and the captain's scape-goat court-martial.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I can only begin to imagine what it must be like to be stranded in the ocean with no one knowing you're there until many days later, and even then I'm only speculating the horror these men must have felt.  The story entered into the popular culture with Robert Shaw's incredible monologue in JAWS (1975).  He tells a chilling story that is based on true events.  This TV film does a pretty good job of recounting the events but they are, unfortunately, bound to the budget and limitations of the medium at the time.  It feels like a TV movie but the actual events still resound with horror.  Craig Safan's somber score is nice and it has hints of his excellent score for SON OF THE MORNING STAR from that same year.  Listen to the main theme from that picture; it's fantastic!  I'm really surprised that this story hasn't been told on the big screen.  Given the right talent, it could be one powerhouse of an emotional, exciting and horrific picture.  So far, the best filmed account of this story was told by Quint.  It's 40 years old this year and it never ceases to send chills through my body.

Prince Avalanche (2013)

Director: David Gordon Green

Writers: Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurosson, David Gordon Green, Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson

Composers: Explosions in the Sky, David Wingo

Starring: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault, Joyce Payne, Gina Grande, Lynn Shelton, Larry Kretschmar, Enoch Moon, David L. Osborne Jr., Danni Wolcott, Morgan Calderoni, Savanna Porter, Juniper Smith

More info: IMDb

Plot: Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives. The isolated landscape becomes a place of misadventure as the men find themselves at odds with each other and the women they left behind.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No,

Here's another picture I missed at Sundance 2013.   It's Rudd & Hirsch's show all the way.  These two make a nice pair.  It's nice seeing Rudd stretching a bit, stepping away from comedy.  I like the guy.  The relationship between Alvin (Rudd) and Lance (Hirsch) does grow (Lance is the little brother of the woman Alvin is dating) into a friendship even if it's just a temporary one until they finish their lonely job.  The dialogue and situations feel pretty genuine.  That's a big plus for the picture as well as the performances.  The score is fine and it works for the film but I couldn't help but be reminded of dozens of scores just like it that you get with other films of this type and the kind of score you see all over the abundance of films at the Sundance Film Festival.  Really.  They're all over the place.  It's one of those low key, feel good stoundtracks that has the equivalent of a warm cup of cocoa.  I don't dislike it but it's the kind of score that's become all too common to the point you don't want to watch too many movies with them too close together or it'll turn you off of hot chocolate for a while.  As a film, it feels much like the score.  It's good but I didn't walk away from it feeling anything more than, "well, that was kind of nice and relaxing."

Monday, February 2, 2015

Wrong Cops (2013)

Director: Quentin Dupieux

Writer: Quentin Dupieux

Composer: Quentin Dupieux

Starring:  Mark Burnham, Eric Judor, Steve Little, Marilyn Manson, Grace Zabriskie, Arden Myrin, Eric Roberts, Eric Wareheim, Daniel Quinn, Izzy Palmieri, Hillary Tuck, Jennifer Blanc, Tim Trobec, Ray Wise

More info: IMDb

Plot: With the crime rate in Los Angeles at record-low levels, bored cops have nothing better to do than act like common criminals.

My rating:  7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

2013 was the first year I went to the Sundance Film Festival and I saw A LOT of movies that year. This was not one of them but I wish it had been.  It's pretty damn funny.  It's in the vein of SUPER TROOPERS (2001) but funnier.  The soundtrack is a lot of fun and plays a role on its own.  The cast is hilarious.  There are lots of little plot threads that all resolve in the final twenty minutes to the detriment of some of the characters.  It was a great how the threads wrapped up.  Marilyn Manson has an extended cameo. I didn't recognize him in the least.  Geez.  Oh, the camera zoom ins and outs had me giggling.  Whoever had that idea needs a hearty handshake.  They were brilliantly added at just the right moments.  I can't say enough about the cast.  Mark Burnham and Arden Myrin were tops for my money. 

The White Buffalo (1977)

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Writer: Richard Sale

Composer: John Barry

Starring: Charles Bronson, Jack Warden, Will Sampson, Kim Novak, Clint Walker, Stuart Whitman, Slim Pickens, John Carradine, Cara Williams, Shay Duffin, Clifford A. Pellow, Douglas Fowley, Ed Lauter, Martin Kove

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Two legendary enemies unite to fight the charging white beast!!

Plot:  Wild Bill Hickok hunts a white buffalo he has seen in a dream. Hickok moves through a variety of uniquely authentic western locations - dim, filthy, makeshift taverns; freezing, slaughterhouse-like frontier towns and beautifully desolate high country - before improbably teaming up with a young Indian named Crazy Horse to pursue the creature.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes but reluctantly.

#66 on Project: Badass Charles Bronson

LEVEL OF BADASSICITY (10 being the highest): 7.  He's so badass that he frightens the titular buffalo to be killed in a most gruesome fashion...and LIKE it!!!  Such sacrifices are sometimes required when in the presence of Bronson.

Bronson = Badass! He doesn't say much...he doesn't have to.

This is one weird as fuck western.  The story is odd, filming most of it in a sound stage is bizarre and it doesn't play out like you'd think.  It's filled with some great character actors that get their one scene to shine and get out.  The last half of the picture has only Bronson, Warden and Sampson in the snowy wilderness.  I can totally understand how the indoor shooting (for the exterior) would turn viewers off with a bellyful of laughter.  It's pretty bad and I'm very forgiving when it comes to stuff like that.  That's one of the reasons that I'm going to give this picture another chance somewhere down the road and I bet that perhaps it was done like that to project the dreamlike quality of it all.  John Barry's score is very different from what he usually did and that's pretty neat-o in my book. It's good and does a nice job of carrying the mystery of the film.   The effect of the stampeding white buffalo gets an extraordinary amount of mileage.  It looks like that second or two of footage gets at least six minutes throughout the picture.  In a weird way I kind of liked the awkwardness of the whole production.  I'm really curious as to how and why some of the production decisions were made.  I caught this on Netflix.  The DVD looks like it's an MGM burn-on-demand disc so it's probably bupkiss for extras.  If you're looking for something different in this genre then look no further. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

I Know That Voice (2013)

Director: Lawrence Shapiro

Writer: Brandon Sonnier

Composer: ???

Starring:  TONS of great talent, John DiMaggio, Kevin Conroy, Jim Cummings, Jason Marsden, Phil LaMarr, Maurice LaMarche, Laraine Newman, Rob Paulsen, Stephen Root, Jim Ward, Billy West, Nancy Cartwright, Hank Azaria, Edward Asner, Clancy Brown, June Foray, Stan Freberg, Seth Green, Matt Groening, Mark Hamill, Gary Owens, Dana Snyder

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A documentary that puts a face to a face to all the voices that we know and love.

Plot: Seldom seen and often heard, the voice actors behind "Futurama," "SpongeBob SquarePants" and many other animated shows discuss their amusing craft

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Sure.

Here's an underrated group of folks who don't get nearly the amount of credit they deserve.  When a big Hollywood animated film gets cast they usually fill it with movie stars regardless of their ability to act ONLY with their voice.  So often you get bland performances from voices you recognize because you've seen them act in live action films.  The REAL talent belongs to those folks whose main gig is voice acting.  They're the ones who put the bomp sha bomp sha bomp behind the animated visuals to the cartoons and films we grew up with.  That list of participants in this film is a fraction of the fine folks we get to see (and hear) in this documentary.  It's a gas to put a face to the voice.  I've been a huge fan of Maurice LaMarche, for example, for more than twenty years and I finally got to see what he looks like.  Granted, there wasn't a Goddamned thing stopping me from looking on the internet in all that time but there he was talking about his craft...and it's just that, a craft. That's one thing you'll glean from this by the time you're watching the end credits.  Like everything, there is an art to voicing animation and it's not just being able to do a funny voice like you do when you're hamming it up with your friends.  If you think it's that easy then you're wrong, or you're in that exclusive minuscule percentile that has a natural talent for it and you should be working in a studio instead of reading this silly blog.  It's currently on Netflix streaming.

The Recruit (2003)

Director: Roger Donaldson

Writers: Roger Towne, Kurt Wimmer, Mitch Glazer

Composer: Klaus Badelt

Starring: Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht, Kenneth Mitchell, Mike Realba, Ron Lea, Karl Pruner

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Trust. Betrayal. Deception. In the C.I.A. nothing is what it seems.

Plot: A brilliant young CIA trainee is asked by his mentor to help find a mole in the Agency.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Try not to think about this one and you'll be better for it except an hour in it'll probably hit you without too much effort.  Pacino is fun and Farrell does a fine job.  I like how the story plays with convention and cliches but what I don't like is how it gave up on those in the third act and decides to roll with a few.  That was shit.   Really.  It's one little twist after another and in the final half hour it goes typical Hollywood and rides that train 'till it gets to the station.  What a crock of shit.  Because of that, it boils down to no longer caring about the characters (except the wild Pacino man doin' his thing) or their fates.  What a missed opportunity.  How would I have liked it to have gone?  Beats me.  That would require me to spend time with this and that's not gonna happen.  The Touchstone DVD has some extras that I'm not going to watch like a 16 minute featurette Spy School: Inside the CIA Training know, like they're REALLY going to tell you a single truth about how they train (ugh), 4 deleted scenes with optional commentary from Donaldson and Farrell, and an audio commentary with the pair.  It's neat that Farrell participated at that level with the commentaries.  It's a real shame the ending went conventional after spending so much time (at least seemingly) trying to do something different in building up to it.