Sunday, January 31, 2016

Battle Cry (1955)

Director: Raoul Walsh

Writer: Leon Uris

Composer: Max Steiner

Starring: Van Heflin, Aldo Ray, Mona Freeman, Nancy Olson, James Whitmore, Raymond Massey, Tab Hunter, Dorothy Malone, Anne Francis, William Campbell, John Lupton, L.Q. Jones, Perry Lopez, Fess Parker

More info: IMDb


Plot: In World War II, a group of raw recruits join the U.S. Marines. They come from all walks of life and go through boot camp together. After basic training, and are sent to Camp Elliott and the 2nd Battalion of the 6th Marines commanded by Major Sam Huxley. His job is now to make them into an effective fighting unit. They leave family and girlfriends behind but soon meet new people, fall in love and fall out of love. In November 1942, they shipped out arriving first in New Zealand for advanced training and from there on to Guadalcanal. Tarawa is their next mission but Huxley has to pull strings to get his battalion into front line action. He gets his wish with the invasion of Saipan.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

If you signed up to see this movie...

you'll feel cheated because THIS is what you'll get...

Yeah.  OMFG.  The melodrama is thick and there's very little war action.  I'm not sayin' you can't have pictures like this, there's room for them, but for fuck's sake...don't advertise it with so much war action 'cause there's hardly any.  Yeah, the last 20 minutes deliver on that but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the picture that runs about two and a half hours.  My only issue with the film is the story filled with love won, lost and so on.  The hardships of the soldiers is touched on from time to time as if they're/we're going to get us a war picture but it's only a tease.  I don't want to be told something happened.  Show me, damnit.  There's maybe 15 minutes of actual war action and that's being generous.  It's probably a little less.  Anyway, this was a real disappointment whether it was my own misguided expectations or this picture really is a drab affair.  They should've called it SOLDIERS CRY or at least something that doesn't elicit, uh, you know, war action.  At least there was this one moment of unexpected satisfaction...

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Barabbas (1961)

Director: Richard Fleischer

Writers: Christopher Fry, Par Lagerkvist, Nigel Balchin, Diego Fabbri, Ivo Perilli

Composer: Mario Nascimbene

Starring: Anthony Quinn, Silvana Mangano, Arthur Kennedy, Katy Jurado, Harry Andrews, Vittorio Gassman, Norman Wooland, Valentina Cortese, jack Palance, Ernest Borgnine, Arnoldo Foa, Michael Gwynn

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The motion picture that begins where the other big ones leave off

Plot: Epic account of the thief Barabbas, who was spared crucifixion when Pilate manipulated the crowd into to pardoning him, rather than Jesus. Struggling with his spirituality, Barabbas goes through many ordeals leading him to the gladiatorial arena, where he tries to win his freedom and confront his inner demons.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I finished the disappointing SOLOMON AND SHEBA (1959) on one day and started this one the next.  SHEBA is a poor example of the Sword & Sandal/Epic film.  The biggest issue is that the lead actors weren't good enough to sell the cheesy, stagy dialogue.  That's not the case with BARABBAS.  First off, it's better written and the acting is MUCH better, too.  The first half of the picture is leisurely paced and you might think it rather slow but I kind of dug it.  The music is sparse but when it's there it's moody, sad and ominous.  All of this is unusual for epic films of this era.  This is the second film I've seen with a Nascimbene score in as many days and I'm really diggin' this guy's work.  It's a completely different score, tonally, than what he provided for SHEBA, and it really suits the picture well.  Quinn delivers a masterful performance.  He doesn't have a massive amount of dialogue like you'd get in other pictures of this genre and era.  He holds back and that works to the film's advantage.  Once he's out of the sulfur mines and he's in gladiator school, the film picks up the pace considerably and we get introduced to Jack Palance's masterful gladiator, Torvald, and he owns that role.  What a badass performance!  The training reminded me of the previous year's SPARTACUS (1960) and the gladiatorial matches are nicely handled and fun as hell.  It's this final third of the film that's the most fun. Naturally, being what this movie is about, religion is all through it.  I don't believe a word of it but I still really enjoyed the picture.  It's well written, scored, acted, directed, great location shooting and sets, the works.  The Columbia DVD has a great looking anamorphic widescreen print with the only extra being the trailer.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

Dave Attell: Road Work (2014)

Director: Scott Gawlik

Staring: Dave Attell

More info: IMDb

Plot: Veteran New York City comic Dave Attell is back with his Comedy Central stand-up special "Road Work." This unique special cuts together multiple performances from Attell's past tour. From New Orleans to Philadelphia to Minneapolis and more, "Road Work" feels more like a concert film than a traditional stand-up special. Of course, it wouldn't be a proper Attell show without his expert crowd work and clever R-rated material in what he calls "a filthy, dirty mess of a show."

My rating:9/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

After watching the incredibly unfunny CHRIS TUCKER LIVE (2015) I had to get some laughs from somewhere (on Netflix streaming) and this one came up.  I love Attell.  I've never not laughed my ass off to his shit.  He's so outrageously vulgar and his jokes zig zag all over the place and the guy is lightning fast with the laughs.  The sad thing is this is only 40 minutes long but the good thing is it's loaded with laughs.  I'd love to see this cat live.  If you're into highly inappropriate funny then this guy is your ambassador.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)

Director: Bud Yorkin

Writers: Fred Freeman, Lawrence J. Cohen

Composer: John Addison

Starring: Gene Wilder, Donald Sutherland, Hugh Griffith, Jack MacGowran, Billie Whitelaw, Victor Spinetti, Ewa Aulin, Helen Fraser, Rosalind Knight, Harry Fowler, Murray Melvin, Ken Parry, Maxwell Shaw, Orson Welles

More info: IMDb

Plot: Two mismatched sets of identical twins - one aristocrat, one peasant - mistakenly exchange identities on the eve of the French Revolution.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I LOVE Gene Wilder. He's one of the funniest screen comedians ever.  Bud Yorkin's picture is funny from the start and I thought I was in for a treat but the jokes couldn't be sustained for 90 minutes...but they tried.  If there's anything negative to say then that's it.  Having Orson Welles introduce the picture by saying he wasn't in it was brilliant.  The cast is great.  John Addison brings the period funny in the music but a couple of the themes get used far too often.  The gags that worked for me were great but not everything landed.  They had a bit where the name and year of the location would be on the screen when going to a new place.  Except for the first one everything else is in 1789 and they kept repeating it as if there's going to be a payoff but there isn't.  That got old, too.  It's not the laugh fest that I wanted but it's a beautifully shot film and there's a great sense of time and place.  It's one of those pictures where it looks like every dime spent is there on the screen.  The Warner Bros. DVD sports a gorgeous anamorphic widescreen print.  With the disc you get two extras, the theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen and a commentary track with Yorkin, Wilder and Sutherland.  I listened to the first half hour of it and it's very informative and interesting.  Recommended.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Solomon and Sheba (1959)

Director: King Vidor

Writers: Crane Wilbur, Anthony Veiller, Paul Dudley, George Bruce

Composer: Mario Nascimbene, Malcolm Arnold

Starring: Yul Brynner, Gina Lollobrigida, George Sanders, Marisa Pavan, David Farrar, John Crawford, Finlay Currie, Harry Andrews, Jose Nieto, Maruchi Fresno, William Devlin, Jack Gwillim, Jean Anderson, Laurence Naismith, Julio Pena

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Behold! The love story of the ages!

Plot: Shortly before his death in ancient Israel King David has a vision from God telling him that his younger son Solomon should succeed him as king. His other son Adonijah is unhappy and vows to attain the throne. Meanwhile the Egyptian Pharaoh agrees to cede a Red Sea port to the Queen of Sheba is she can find a way to destroy Solomon, whose wisdom and benevolent rule is seen as a threat to more tyrannical monarchs in the region. Sheba, Pharaoh, Adonijah, the leaders of the Twelve Tribes and his own God make life difficult for Solomon who is tempted by Sheba to stray.

My rating:  5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Here's a one way ticket to Yawnsville.  First, the bad.  Brynner has no charisma in this picture.  Period.  Lollobrigida has a little.  Semi period.  Together, they're just reading memorized words from the page.  Tyrone Power had the lead of Solomon until he died during filming.  Brynner replaced him.  I suspect Power would've been much better and perhaps would have been better suited to strike up a romance with Gina HUBBA HUBBA Lollobrigida (as Sheba, or rather the Queen of Sheba).  The rest of the cast fares well.  Harry Andrews (as Baltor, Sheba's top advisor) is hardly recognizable under the darkened skin makeup, beard, robes et al.  George Sanders is playing the strong asshole bully that he's sooooooo good at playing (like he was many times before and after).  There's a little action in the beginning and more at the end (that final battle with the shields was balls-out amazing!) and everything in between is love stuff drama with a dusting of political drama (very lightly, though). The lofty dialogue is the kind you get in these old historical epics and borders on cheese and it must be spoken by actors that have the chops to pull it off.  Sadly Brynner and Lollobrigida are rarely able to do so.  Mario Nascimbene's score is very good (yay) and the absolute best part of the film is the pagan dance.  It's HOT!!!

Stupid unembedable videos.  The last twenty minutes of the picture is a mixed bag of some good battle scenes, a stoning and then a silly redemption.  Is it worth watching?  It's hard to say.  You couldn't keep me from it but I can't recommend it.  It's very slow, the two leads have no charisma together and they often can't deliver the material without sounding stagy.  It's hard to endure something that has such a large mid-section of bland.  That pagan dance is fantastic.  It's too bad there isn't a better quality video of it online.  I'm still excited to see more S&S/historical epics now that I'm on that kick again.  This was Vidor's last feature, by the way.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Jesse Stone 5: Thin Ice (2009)

Director: Robert harmon

Writers: Ronni Kern, Tom Selleck, Michael Brandman

Composer: Jeff Beal

Starring: Tom Selleck, Kathy Baker, Kohl Sudduth, Leslie Hope, Stephen McHattie, William Sadler, Jessica Hecht, Joanna Miles, Fulvio Cecere, Camryn Manheim, William Devane, John Beale, Jeremy Ackerman

More info: IMDb

Plot: Jesse Stone and Captain Healy are shot during an unauthorized stake-out in Boston. Meanwhile, a cryptic letter sent from Paradise leads the mother of a kidnapped child to Stone. Though her son was declared dead, she hopes he will reopen the case.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

These great JESSE STONE TV movies are lots of fun although they do have their varying degrees of quality and I have minor issues with some.  I think I speak for the world when I say that we need more William Devane in everything.  Selleck is great in this role.  It's like comfort food, this series.  Having watched all of these in the span of a week or two, they kind of blend together.  I'll watch them all, like some and love the rest.  This one's not as strong as most of the others and it's partly to do with so much of it taking place outside of Paradise.  The Sony DVD presents the film is in anamorphic widescreen.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Beat Generation (1959)

Director: Charles F. Haas

Writers: Richard Matheson, Lewis Meltzer

Composer: Albert Glasser

Starring: Steve Cochran, Mamie Van Doren, Ray Danton, Fay Spain, Louis Armstrong, Margaret Hayes, Jackie Coogan, James Mitchum, Cathy Crosby, Ray Anthony, Dick Contino, Irish McCalla, Vampira, Billy Daniels, Maxie Rosenbloom, Charles Chaplin Jr., Norman Grabowski, Bil Hickman, William Schallert, Guy Stockwell, Sid Melton

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Behind the Weird "Way-Out" World of the Beatniks!

Plot: A detective is assigned to track down and capture a crazed serial rapist.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Man, what a cast!  The film starts off with Louis Armstrong and his band performing the title song and it's off to the fun from there. The Beatniks get made fun of plenty but without this being a comedy.  It's part social commentary, crime, drama, serial raping, action, music interludes, poetry and abortion discussion.  It's a wild scene!  Can you dig it?  This picture looks like it's just another cheapie crime film with some weirdo kids hanging out at a coffee house but it quickly turns into trying to catch a Beatnik serial rapist doing the deed on the detective's wife and all kinds of unexpected shit starts happening.  This is a wild picture.  What's more, it's tackling some really heavy subjects and throws in some fun music numbers to mix it up a bit.  Did you see that cast?  Ray Danton?  Mamie Van Doren?  Louis Armstrong?  Vampira?  And that's just getting started.  There are a lot of familiar faces in this thing.  It's pretty well acted.  Some of the Beatniks over do it a little but that's OK.  They're playing stereotypes of the day.  The ending just.  Keeps.  Going.  And.  Doesn't.  Stop.  The filmmakers throw an incredible amount of material in the span of 95 minutes.  You really get your money's worth.  I taped this off of TV eons ago.  I see now that it's on Blu-ray for around twenty bucks.  As soon as it drops below fifteen I'm picking it up and showing it to the gang.  They're going to love it.  Why have I never seen this before?   I never realized I missed so much.  Find this one and watch it.  It really is out there.  Watch the video below.  The rapist is about to do the number on the detective's wife while the detective is at a beat club waiting for the rapist to show up.  That's Vampira reading the poetry holding a rat and the bald guy sitting next to the detective is Jackie "Uncle Fester" Coogan!!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Enemy Gold (1993)

Director: Christian Drew Sidaris

Writers: Wess Rahn, Christian Drew Sidaris

Composer: Ron Di Iulio

Starring: Bruce Penhall, Mark Barriere, Suzi Simpson, Tanquil Lisa Collins, Rodrigo Obregon, Julie Strain, Alan Abelew, Tom Abbott, Ron Browning

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Bullets, bombs and babes!

Plot: Three Federal agents go in search of gold supposedly hidden by Quantrell during the Civil War after they are suspended by a corrupt official for excessive force during a drug raid. Meanwhile a drug lord (Obregon) hires a hit woman (Strain) to kill the three for interfering with his operations.

My rating: 3.5/10 Will I watch it again?  No.

If it weren't for these...

there'd be no reason to consider watching this.  Fortunately those are scattered throughout the film (and even in the last 5 minutes!!!).  Unfortunately, this picture lacks the endless cheesy lines (there's some bad acting like you'd expect, though) and stupidity that makes some of Andy Sidaris' films watchable and sometimes fun.  The Civil War flashbacks are dreadfully dull.  Something else that's missing is the beautiful Hawaii location shooting you usually get with Sidaris' pictures.  Boobs are great but they can't sustain 90 minutes of yawns.  You can get this in a set of 11 other films in the Girls, Guns and G-Strings DVD set for ten bucks online.  Is it worth it?  I'm 4 films in and there's one that has a chance at being watched again (HINT: it's HARD TICKET TO HAWAII (1987)).

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Teenage (2013)

Director: Matt Wolf

Writers: Jon Savage, Matt Wolf

Composer: Bradford Cox

Starring: Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Julia Hummer, Jessie Usher, Leah Hennessey, Ivy Blackshire, Daniela Leder, Ben Rosenfield, Malik Peters, Richie Coterelle, Julia Cumming

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Rebellion never gets old.

Plot: Teenagers did not always exist. In this living collage of rare archival material, filmed portraits, and voices lifted from early 20th Century diary entries, a struggle erupts between adults and adolescents to define a new idea of youth.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Told through vintage photographs, film and voiceovers from vintage recordings and current voice actors reading letters and such, this documentary doesn't give a traditional history of its subject, teenagers, but letting the viewer experience the experiences from the turn of the last century through the burgeoning 1950s.  It's very entertaining unless you don't like looking at old shit.  It's really neat seeing how far teens have come and how little they've often changed.  The bulk of the picture is spent during WWII between the US, England and, better still, Germany. The German portion was the best part of the film.  We learn a lot about something I'd never really thought about.  The only thing I thought was a little odd was the score which wasn't period but it felt more at home in a modern film.  You'll know what I'm talking about.  I really wanted to hear some great 20s jazz and so on.  That would've made the picture better for me.  I didn't need it to always stay period but all too often there were cues that didn't work all that well. Still, it's the other content that mattered.  The Oscilloscope DVD comes with some extras including a commentary track, a making of featurette (16 minutes), a 6 minute featurette on filming the recreation scenes for the film, some extended footage from 4 of the archival films used in the picture, the theatrical trailer and trailers for 4 other Oscilloscope films.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Chris Tucker Live (2015)

Director: Phil Joanou

Starring: Chris Tucker

More info: IMDb

Plot: In this Netflix special, Chris Tucker returns to the stage he loves and showcases his mind-blowing comedic chops as he shares his experiences from childhood to the big time.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I didn't laugh once until the last twenty minutes when he did his Bill Clinton impression and bit.  He sounded a lot like the former President but it didn't take long before it leaned more toward Barney Fife and then we're back to not being funny.  Something else that was surprising were the jarring moments of when the show was clearly edited to cut out a bit and the sudden applause or laughter was used to cover up the awkward edit.  I've sometimes like Tucker in the few films he's done and this is the first time I've ever seen his stand up.  If this is any indication of what he's capable of on stage, I don't need to see anything else he's done.  Is this the best he's got or is there another stand up special that brings the funny?  I'm not going to waste my time searching for it.  This was enough.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Captain John Smith and Pocahontas (1953)

Director: Lew Landers

Writers: Aubrey Wisberg, Jack Pollexfen

Composer: Albert Glasser

Starring: Anthony Dexter, Jody Lawrance, Alan Hale Jr., Robert Clarke, Stuart Randall, James Seay, Philip Van Zandt, Shepard Menken, Douglass Dumbrille, Anthony Eustrel, Henry Rowland, Eric Colmar

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  A white man and an Indian Princess!  They dared a nation's vengeance and the red man's live the greatest love story of them all!

Plot: Captain John Smith overcomes the treachery of some of his men and resentment of the local Native Americans to establish the colony of Jamestown.

My rating:

Will I watch it again?  No.

Drinking game:  Take a drink every time anyone says either Pocahontas and Captain John Smith.  Hammered in minutes.   The first time we meet Pocahontas (go ahead, take a drink) and she opens her mouth, she speaks perfect English.  Of course the Indians are all played by whites.  Anthony Dexter was a poor choice for the lead.  He's not good.  His line delivery is stale and he lacks even a modest amount of charisma.  He's just reciting lines.  Alan Hale is great but he's barely in it.  Hell, I'd rather have him as Captain John Smith (take another drink, please).  He may not look like what you'd think the character would be but he's a much better actor.  There's nothing better than average about this picture.  It's bland and the love story business is going to bore the kids to death.  The MGM DVD presents the film in its original fullscreen format and the only extras you get, if you can believe this, is the fullscreen trailer for HOOK (1991)!?!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Situation Normal: A.F.U. (1970)

Original title: Rosolina Paterno, Soldato...

Director: Nanni Loy

Writers: Agenore Incrocci, Nanni Loy, Furio Scarpelli

Composer: Carlo Rustichelli

Starring: Nino Manfredi, Jason Robards, Peter Falk, Martin Landau, Scott Hylands, Milena Vukotic, Lorenza Guerrieri, Corrado, Anthony Dawson, Slim Pickens

More info: IMDb

Plot: In WWII, a commando was sent in a secret mission in Sicily. They had a reluctant Italian prisoner of war to help them.

My rating:  4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

 Ugh.  I thought this would have been better.  The cast is great.  Slim Pickens is barely in it, Peter Falk is hilarious but his role is cut short.  Robards and Landau are fun but they're not given as much screen time as fans of any of these cats would like.  The aforementioned actors dubbed their own voices, the others did not for this English release.  To be fair to the film, the print I watched was horrible.  Non-anamorphic widescreen VHS (and shitty) with Dutch subs (in front of large black bars) hard-coded into the picture.  I know it's awful but it's the only one I could find.  Someone sent it too me a decade ago and I'm just now getting around to it.  Despite some fun moments with the known cast, what few there are, the film is mostly slow with too many drawn-out scenes.  It doesn't help that the score is repetitive and ill-conceived.  It feels much longer than it is.  Even though my experience with the film is pretty bad, I'd still wait in line to see a great print in a theater and spend money to do it.  That usually elevates a picture.  No film deserves to be seen like I saw this one.  Woof.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Jesse Stone 3: Death in Paradise (2006)

Director: Robert Harmon

Writers: Robert B. Parker, J.T. Allen, Michael Brandman, Tom Selleck

Composer: Jeff Beal

Starring: Tom Selleck, Viola Davis, Kohl Sudduth, Orla Brady, Gary Basaraba, John Diehl, Debra Christofferson, Stephen McHattie, William Devane, Gillian Anderson

More info: IMDb

Plot:  When the body of a fourteen-year-old teenager is found in the margin of a lake in Paradise, Massachusetts, the Chief of Police Jesse Stone and his officer Simpson seek clues in the spot. Through a class ring of a student that they find near the corpse, they identity the dead girl, the local slut Billy Bishop. Meanwhile, his department deals with a domestic violent situation with an aggressive and abusive husband who beats his wife. Along his investigation, Stone discloses that the famous writer Norman Shaw was too much close to the victim and intended to write the biography of the famous gangster Leo in his next book. Joining the pieces of evidences like a puzzle, Stone unravels the identity of the criminal.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

These great JESSE STONE TV movies are lots of fun although they do have their varying degrees of quality and I have minor issues with some.  I think I speak for the world when I say that we need more William Devane in everything.  Selleck is great in this role.  It's like comfort food, this series.  Having watched all of these in the span of a week or two, they kind of blend together.  I'll watch them all, like some and love the rest.  The Sony DVD has no extras except for some lame trailers which aren't even worth mentioning...except that I've kind of mentioned them.  The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Blast-Off Girls (1967)

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Writer: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Composer: Larry Wellington

Starring: Dan Conway, Ray Sager, Tom Tyrell, Ron Liace, Dennis Hickey, Ralph Mullin, Chris Wolski, Lawrence J. Aberwood, Neil Julien, Don Logay, Jack Horner, Colonel Harland Sanders

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's What's Happening, Baby!

Plot: A sleazy record promotor tries to make it big with a local Chicago garage band and plans to make them famous while keeping the profits for himself.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Horrible poster, fun trailer that tells you nothing. Man, there's so much potential here but the low budget, crappy filmmaking keeps it mired in semi-boredom.  You get some groovy tunes, a despicable villain and a good story but you also get lots of bad acting (not necessarily a bad thing), lots of stretched out dialogue (these actors, especially Dan Conway, playing the evil record producer Boojie Baker, needed some advice on tightening up his lines) which drags the scenes down.  Lewis could've done something about that.  I dug the ending.  It's got a Beatles/Monkeys fun vibe to it.  The film is presented with a not too dirty non-anamorphic widescreen print. It's part of a Something Weird Video double bill with JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT (1968) and, naturally, there's a ton of extras that are often better than the films they support, although a commentary track from Lewis would be most welcome for this picture.. You get 10 trashy trailers, 2 fun and trashy shorts, 3 intermission shorts, a gallery of drive-in exploitation art with radio spots (usually I don't include galleries as an extras because they generally stink like mad but SWV does it right and makes them entertaining as hell) and this disc has a drive-in mode that mixes the extras and the films together for one long night of fun.  On that alone this disc is a solid recommendation.  That and a cameo by Col. Fuckin' Sanders!!!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Enemy of the State (1998)

Director: Tony Scott

Writer: David Marconi

Composers: Hary Gregson-Williams, Trevor Rabin

Starring: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King, Stuart Wilson, Laura Cayouette, Loren Dean, Barry Pepper, Ian Hart, Jake Busey, Scott Caan, Jason Lee, Gabriel Byrne, Jack Black, Jamie Kennedy, Anna Gunn, Seth Green, Philip Baker Hall, Tom Sizemore

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's not paranoia if they're really after you.

Plot: A lawyer becomes a target by a corrupt politician and his NSA goons when he accidentally receives key evidence to a serious politically motivated crime.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Tony Scott knew how to make a picture with good action and better pacing.  The performances are good and what you'd expect although they're not going to garner any big time acting awards but that doesn't hurt his films.  On those levels, this film succeeds for me but then it's also over loaded with sound effects for every fucking thing that happens on every computer monitor and electronic device.  That much I hated, as I generally despise Hollywood's tendency to over-use sound.  It's a good enough thriller and I always welcome seeing anything that Gene Hackman is in.  If there's one big positive I can part about this picture is that it makes me want to dust off my copy of THE CONVERSATION (1974), a MUCH better film along the same lines as this one, and give it another spin.  The Touchstone DVD I have/about to be had is in non-anamorphic widescreen (boo) and the extras you get are the theatrical trailer (also non-anamorphic widescreen), two fluff featurettes (with a combined total of a whopping 5 minutes), and trailers for ARMAGEDDON, THE ROCK, and CON AIR. Yawn.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bellflower (2011)

Director: Evan Glodell

Writer: Evan Glodell

Composer: Jonathan Keevil

Starring: Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson, Rebekah Brandes, Vincent Grashaw, Zack Kraus, Keghan Hurst

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A love story with apocalyptic stakes.

Plot: Two friends spend all their free time building flame-throwers and weapons of mass destruction in hopes that a global apocalypse will occur and clear the runway for their imaginary gang "Mother Medusa".

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

The first half of the film got on my nerves.  I have a really hard time not finishing a movie but I was really tempted about twenty minutes in. The two main guys are incredibly annoying, like you're the only sober one in a room filled with drunks and stoners.  Then an accident happens to one of them that changes the annoying ones (for the better, at least for my entertainment value) and the tone of the picture.  It gets serious and a little surreal.  As one of them begins to lose his sanity, he takes us with him and the finale is pretty messed up.  I liked that part but that was about it.  The end doesn't go as far as you think it will but it does imply that perhaps it will. I just wanted to see that part.  That definitely would've elevated the film more.  Again, I'm looking at this as entertainment and I liked small portions of this ride.  I guess if you identify with either of these two guys then you'll have a better time with it.  The Oscilloscope DVD has some extras including a behind the scenes featurette (24 minutes), a 10 minute piece with Glodell walking us through the badass modifications to the car star in the film, Medusa, 8 minutes of outtakes, the theatrical trailer and trailers for 5 other Oscilloscope pictures.  A commentary track would have been nice to have.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Spectre (2015)

Director: Sam Mendes

Writers: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth

Composer: Thomas Newman

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Alessandro Cremona

More info: IMDb

Plot: A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? YES!


NICE!  After the disappointing (yeah, I know I'm in the minority on this one) SKYFALL (), I could not have been prepared for the awesomeness of SPECTRE.  The end of SKYFALL felt like the pieces were set to get back to the James Bond I grew up with from Moore and Connery and boy did they knock it out of the park!  There were seemingly endless references to what felt like about every Bond film that came before.  I kept seeing hints of each of the prior films in subtle (and not so subtle) ways and I was loving it.  Bautista was intimidating as hell as Mr. Hinx.  I was sad to see his quick departure but I suspect he'll be back for the next film. Whishaw as Q was much better utilized than in SKYFALL (I didn't like him or the character as I felt he was far too young).  Daniel Craig felt like he was at his most comfortable in the role and he was having a wonderful time with it.  Plus it was great seeing Bond more playful like what we got with Connery and Moore.  Loved it.  And then there's Christoph Waltz.  OMFG was he pitch perfect for this.  I also suspect he'll be back for the next one as well.

The only issues I have with the picture were the head drilling torture scene and the finale.  Bond got out of the needle scene way too easily and without incident.  You'd think that would have fucked his shit up than probably giving him a slight headache.  Then there's the inexcusable, idiotic way in which Madeleine excuses herself from the film near the end only to find her kidnapped and used for bait to trap Bond.  I feel like I've discussed that and what follows so much with my friends and how it should've gone that I'm tired and I don't have the patience right now to lay it all out again.  Other than that, I friggin' loved the movie.  That opening sequence was a lot of fun and the location and ambiance was terrific.  After a couple of OK pictures, SPECTRE was the breath of fresh air that this franchise and fans of the pre-Brosnan films needed and desperately wanted.  Now let's just hope they don't muck up the next one. What I'd like to see harkens back to OHMSS (1968).  Let's have Bond and Madeleine driving along the beautiful countryside of France, Spain or anywhere.  They're happy as can be and enjoying life to its fullest when along comes Mr. Hinx driving with a damaged (as we saw him at the end of SPECTRE) Blofeld firing a machine gun at them, killing Madeleine.  Then roll the opening credits and the chase is on with Bond in full on revenge mode.  THAT'S what I'd like to see and what an amazing opening it would make.  I'd be squirming in my seat in anticipation of what was next having to sit through the 3 minute song/credits. 

Armageddon (1998)

Director: Michael Bay

Writers: Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. Abrams, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno, Robert Roy Pool

Composer: Trevor Rabin

Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, William Fichtner, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Peter Stormare, Ken Hudson Campbell, Jessica Steen, Keith David, Chris Ellis, Jason Isaacs, Eddie Griffin, Udo Kier, Shawnee Smith, Charlton Heston, Mark Boone Junior, Lawrence Tierney

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's Closer Than You Think.

Plot: After discovering that an asteroid the size of Texas is going to impact Earth in less than a month, N.A.S.A. recruits a misfit team of deep core drillers to save the planet.

My rating:3/10

Will I watch it again? NOOOOOO!

I first saw this more than 15 years ago and I couldn't stand it.  It is so loud, obnoxious, ridiculous and oozing with bubblegum testosterone.  I REALLY dig a lot of the cast (Thornton and Buscemi most of all, and they're both fun in this) but the story and direction are so over the top it's cartoonish.  Cut to maybe three years ago when a bunch of friends came over to watch it.  I was OK with that because I had to know if it was me or if the movie really is that bad and rubbed me the wrong way.  It's not me, I can tell you that much. The film can't be content with trying to be a good action suspense flick.  No.  Michael Bay & Co. have to give it an unhealthy dose of steroids to make the action scenes larger than life and, as is the case with the final third of the picture, keep shoving action in our faces at every turn by having everything that can possibly go wrong go horribly wrong and overlong.  It's 20 minutes shy of 3 hours.  NEARLY THREE HOURS!!!  The picture tries too hard and there's too much in it.  It's an exercise in excess.  I realize I'm in the minority on this one and most everyone I know likes or loves this movie.  I'm done with it.  I've seen it twice now.  I've long since sold my Criterion DVD special edition at a yard sale for a buck.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Just for the Hell of It (1968)

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Writer: Allison Louise Downe

Composer: Larry Wellington

Starring: Ray Sager, Rodney Bedell, Agi Gyenes, Nancy Lee Noble, Steve White, Ralph Mullin, Larry Williams, Geraldine Young, John Shackleford, John Chaffin

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Here comes destruction incorporated!

Plot:  A young teenage boy is blamed for a Florida neighborhood being terrorized. But the real culprits are a gang of four punks leading a group of local delinquents on a nihilistic lifestyle of destruction and mayhem.

My rating:4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Yawn.  I should probably drop the score a little more but the picture is amusing at times.  The baby in the trashcan cracks me up as does the gang terrorizing a little kids' baseball game in the park.  Man, that's funny.  But then you've got the bad - the acting (taking too long to deliver lines, etc.), the slow pace and it's too long with too many padded scenes.  Oh, yeah, there's no nudity.  An exploitation flick like this from '68 should have something along the lines of some skin.  It sure as shit wouldn't have hurt this picture.  Most of the fun bits you'll see in the trailer.  This is part of a Something Weird Video double bill with BLAST-OFF GIRLS (1967) and, naturally, there's a ton of extras that are often better than the films they support. You get 10 trashy trailers, 2 fun and trashy shorts, 3 intermission shorts, a gallery of drive-in exploitation art with radio spots (usually I don't include galleries as an extras because they generally stink like mad but SWV does it right and makes them entertaining as hell) and this disc has a drive-in mode that mixes the extras and the films together for one long night of fun.  On that alone this disc is a solid recommendation. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Composer:  Ennio Morricone

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Dana Gourrier, Zoe Bell, Lee Horsley, Gene Jones, Keith Jefferson, Craig Stark, Belinda Owino, Channing Tatum, Arnar Valur Halldorsson, Quentin Tarantino

More info: IMDb

Tagline: No One Comes Up Here Without a Damn Good Reason

Plot: In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I'm a huge fan of Tarantino and I was really excited for this one because he's finally doing a full-on Western (well, sorta) and it's got Walton Goggins among other great actors.  I've been a fan of Goggins for years and I can't get enough of this cat.  He's great.  The cast is excellent which is par for the course.  Tarantino always gets top notch performances out of his actors.  Don't go into this expecting a Western in that you'll get to spend lots of time admiring the beautiful scenery of the American West and see lots of the things you'd normally get.  Nope.  Nearly all of the three hours is inside one cabin.  I didn't get to see it in 70 mm but watching it on a regular screen, it didn't seem to matter much as most of it is inside.  The story is fun and the last hour is where most of the fun and action is.  The film flies by and those first two hours go a long way in setting up the tension that builds to a climax for that last act.  When Zoe Bell pops on the screen she brings the smiles as wide as Montana and she's as adorable as can be.  She needs to have my babies...and act in more movies.  Jackson proves yet again how much he can bring to a movie.  He's great.  Walton Goggins has a much bigger role than I expected and, if I remember right, he's the only character with a discernible arc.  The ending is great and it's got Tarantino's sense of humor all over it.  I'm really looking forward to seeing it again but that might have to wait until the Blu-ray comes out.  One final note (as it were).  I read that Morricone was only able to provide the film with a theme specifically composed for it.  For the rest of it he offered Tarantino to use his unused orchestral score for John Carpenter's THE THING (1982).  For that film he wrote two score and Carpenter threw out the orchestral one in favor of the electronic one used in the film.  That's perfectly fine but Tarantino, in interviews, briefly mentions this but takes great pride in repeating that Morricone wrote an original score for his film which is barely true.  Then the other night the score wins the Golden Globe for best score.  I'm not sure about the rules of that award but only the theme was composed for the film.  Tarantaino picked up the award on the composer's behalf and raved and raved about it.  I just think the reigns need to be pulled in on the importance of the music so people know that it was mostly written for a film thirty plus years ago, that's all.  It was nice, though, hearing a score for a Tarantino picture that was more or less more consistent than the, albeit, great uses of miscellaneous tracks he's used before.

No Way Back (1995)

Director: Frank A. Cappello

Writer: Frank A. Cappello

Composer: David C. Williams

Starring: Russell Crowe, Helen Slater, Etushi Toyokawa, Michael Lerner, Kyusaku Shimada, Kristopher Logan, Kelly Hu, Andrew J. Ferchland, Ian Ziering

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  When you pass the point of no return...there's no way back.

Plot: When F.B.I. Agent Zack Grant's partner is killed during a blown-up operation, he attempts to find the person responsible. Mafiaso Frank Serlano believes Zack is responsible for his only sons death in the same operation and kidnaps Zacks son to hold as bait. The action gets wild when airline stewardess Mary is taken hostage to add what seems an another insurmountable problem for Zack. There appears to be No Way Out.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The only reason anyone would watch this is because it stars Russell Crowe just before he was becoming a big time star.  It's the kind of action flick that goes straight to video with sub par lighting, editing, music, acting and so on.  The script is by the numbers with cheesy action dialogue that even Michael Lerner can't save.  It's a little challenging judging Crowe's performance since I've seen him in a lot of films and he's generally very good.  Here he's alright and above average (for the direct to video market) but he's not bringing in his A-game.  Everything about this picture is OK at best.  See it for Crowe if you must but don't watch it for any other reason.  Wait a minute, Helen Slater does a good job.  Hmmm.  The Sony DVD presents the film in fullscreen (not as nature intended) and the only extras are four trailers (none for this film). 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Driven (2001)

Director: Renny Harlin

Writers: Jan Skrentny, Neal Tabachnick, Sylvester Stallone

Composer: BT

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Kip Pardue, Stacy Edwards, Til Schweiger, Gina Gershon, Estella Warren, Cristian de la Fuente, Brent Briscoe, Robert Sean Leonard, Verona Pooth, Jasmin Wagner, Chip Ganassi

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Get ready for the race of your life.

Plot: A young hot shot driver is in the middle of a championship season and is coming apart at the seams. A former CART champion is called in to give him guidance.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Here's a by-the-numbers sports movie that does what most sports movies do.  It's filled with cliches but doesn't do anything with them to let you think it's OK to include them.  Cliches exist for a reason and I'm OK with that but they don't have to feel so tired and over used as they do in this film.  It's not a horrible picture but two hours of it makes you feel the burn.  The street racing with the Formula 1 cars was utterly unbelievable and not in a good way.  The quarters on the track was silly, too.  Besides seeing Stallone and Reynolds, is there any reason to watch this?  Not a one.  Throws some pocket change on the street where you live and drive over it to get your kicks.  The Warner Bros. DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen image and extras with a commentary with Harlin, a 15 minute making of doc, a 10 minute featurette on the effects, 52 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary from Stallone (!!!), the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen) and a trailer for the video game.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Set It Off (1996)

Director:  F. Gary Gray

Writers: Takashi Bufford, Kate Lanier

Composer: Christopher Young

Starring: Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, Kimberly Elise, John C. McGinley, Blair Underwood, Vincent Baum, Van Baum, Chaz Lamar Shepherd, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Charles Robinson, Ella Joyce, Dr. Dre

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Deal with this. The only breaks you get are the ones you take.

Plot: Desperation drives four inner-city women (Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Vivica A. Fox, Kimberly Elise) to bank robbery in Los Angeles, then they start mistrusting one another.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

If this were made in 1975 it would have been a lot more fun.  A LOT more fun.  As it stands now, it's still a pretty good movie.  The performances are earnest and the story is good but there's a lot more drama than the trailer lets on and there's less action than there should be to make this more in line with what they were trying to sell us.  There are some fun moments but the best thing about it is the ending...sort of. Even though it's a bit overdone emotionally, the ending is bleak except for the character(s) that gets away.   I would have preferred going all the way with the hand of doom and let them all snuff it but at least they didn't make the finale a happy dance.  That would've been way worse.  The NewLine DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with the only extras being a music video by Ray J and the trailer (in anamorphic widescreen).  It's by no means great film but it deserves better than that considering the talent in front of and behind the camera. Now somebody needs to go back in time and pre-make this film starring Pam Grier, Tamara Dobson, Vonetta McGee, Carol Speed and William Smith as the detective.  Here's my money.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Spider-Man (2002)

Director: Sam Raimi

Writer: David Koepp

Composer: Danny Elfman

Starring:  Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Joe Manganiello, Gerry Becker, Bill Nunn, Jack Betts, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Elizabeth Banks, Robert Kerman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: With great power comes great responsibility.

Plot: When bitten by a genetically modified spider, a nerdy, shy, and awkward high school student gains spider-like abilities that he eventually must use to fight evil as a superhero after tragedy befalls his family

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes and the next time it's on Blu-ray.

Great flick.  It's been well over ten years since I last saw this and it's just as I remembered.  Elfman's score works well and he's got a memorable main theme.  Maguire does a great job in the lead.  Hell, the whole cast is really good except I'm not crazy about Rosemary Harris as Aunt May.  She's a little too Aunt Bee, apple pie in the window for me.  Simmons is hilarious as Jameson.  People complain about some of the effects but I think they're great and at their worst, I can overlook minor stuff like that. It's fine storytelling with great pacing and enough humor throughout to make it an easy repeat watch.  The second film is even better but the third is heavily flawed.  I still haven't watched either of the Garfield pictures.  I've got the 2-disc special edition DVD but I think I'll pick up the Blu-ray set on the cheap before I watch it again. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

And God Said to Cain (1970)

Original title: E Dio Disse a Caino...

Director: Antonio Margheriti

Writers: Giovanni Addessi, Antonio Margheriti

Composer: Carlo Savina

Starring: Klaus Kinski, Peter Carsten, Marcella Michelangeli, Guido Lollobrigida, Antonio Cantafora, Giuliano Raffaelli, Luciano Pigozzi

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Gary Hamilton (Kinski), innocently sentenced to ten years in prison, is released. When he comes out he promises himself to seek revenge on the guilty.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Here's a Spaghetti Western that's unusual in that nearly the entire film takes place over the course of one night.  The picture opens with Hamilton (Kinski) getting released from prison.  It doesn't take long for him to gather up a horse and a gun and he's headed to town kill Acombar (Carsten) and his wife who betrayed him ten years earlier.  Acombar is rich and has lots of bullet catchers on his payroll.  Hamilton spends the night picking these no accounts off one by one.  There's a pretty good amount of time spent with the church bell ringing and it's really effective hearing it in the background as the action continues.  It's like a pulse of death and I really dug it.  It's strange seeing Kinski but hearing someone else's voice.  I was really surprised at how well the film works considering it's almost entirely filmed at night and it's just a matter of time when Hamilton will make his way to the last man to kill.  The ending is very satisfying with some innocents who get snuffed by all the wrong people.  I realize this is the wrong way to look at it but I've seen most of the good Spags and since there were over 500 made in 15 years, most of the others I've seen are OK at best and I really don't have high hopes for any I haven't seen at this point.  But then I also get surprised and pleased when a good one crops up.