Monday, February 29, 2016

The Specialist (1994)

Director: Luis Llosa

Writers: John Shirley, Alexandra Seros

Composer: John Barry

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, James Woods, Rod Steiger, Eric Roberts, Mario Ernesto Snachez, Tony Munafo, Marcela Cardona, Brent Sexton

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Killing is his profession. Revenge is her goal. Together they take on the battle against the underworld of Miami.

Plot: A woman entices a bomb expert she's involved with into destroying the mafia that killed her family.

My rating:  5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

"You've got some 'splosions to do, Lucy!"  The best parts about this picture are the numerous explosions and John Barry's moody score.  That's it.  The dialogue is often laughable which makes this even more of a mess when you add the actors.  Rod Steiger is at his best when he underplays a role.  But in this picture, he's so over the top he's getting frequent flyer miles.  He's not supposed to be funny but he's playing a cartoon.  Eric Roberts plays a slimeball almost too well.  James Woods over plays it sometimes but at others he's fun.  Sharon Stone has some really bad moments that make you wonder about her ability.  Stallone is taking it too seriously, especially when you compare his performance to everybody else's.  The performances don't work together so you're stuck with a film that doesn't feel like it really knows what it wants to be.  I guess that could be fun on some level but just the scenes with Stone and Stallone alone together are really rough.  Maybe they lacked chemistry.  Beats me.  They did struggle to make the silly dialogue less ridiculous.  Lovely score, though.  If you ever wondered what it would look like to see Stone and Stallone naked in a shower for an extended period of time (with dialogue), this is your movie.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Black Eagle of Santa Fe (1965)

Original title: Die Schwarzen Adler von Santa Fe

Director: Ernst Hofbauer

Writers: Jack Lewis, Valeria Bonamano

Composer: Gert Wilden

Starring: Brad Harris, Joachim Hansen, Pinkas Braun, Werner Peters, Helga Sommerfeld, Edith Hancke, Olga Schoberova, Serge Marquand, Ennio Girolami, Tony Kendall, Joseph Egger, Jacques Bezard, Horst Frank, Ronny

More info: IMDb

Plot:  When Comanches go on the warpath, settlers take refuge in Ft. Eagle Rock commanded by Capt. Jackson. Undercover agent Cliff McPherson arrives at the undermanned fort to lend advice and support. He learns that the Comanches have been stirred up by local rancher Morton who wants to take control of the oil under the Indians' reservation. McPherson informs Chief Black Eagle of Morton's treachery and the Indians then ride to the rescue of the cavalry when Morton's men attack the soldiers and settlers fleeing the fort.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Man, what a difference a great looking print makes!  The one I have is a gorgeous anamorphic widescreen print.  The location shooting locations sitting in for the American West are beautiful.  I wasn't considering watching this again but if I did, I'd watch it for that alone.  I'd also try and find a DVD of it that's in German with English subs (the one I have offers an English and German dub but no subs).  The English dub isn't bad but I'd like to mix it up should I give this another spin someday.  I can't say enough about the quality of the print.  Enough of how nice it looks.  It's certainly a better than average Spaghetti/Euro Western in most areas.  It's a good story with some nice action, acting, camerawork and great use of the locations.  There's a great scene where someone gets their comeuppance by getting brutally dragged behind a horse.  Nice.  There are even some cool deaths and some folks you would've expected to live.  I can dig it.   You can watch the English version on YouTube above but the quality isn't as good but it's good enough for your computer screen.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Howl (2010)

Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

Writers: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

Composer: Carter Burwell

Starring: James Franco, Todd Rotondi, Jon Prescott, Aaron Tveit, David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, Andrew Rogers, Bob Balaban, Mary-Louise Parker, Treat Williams, Jeff Daniels

More info:  IMDb

Tagline: The Obscenity Trial That Started a Revolution. The Poem That Rocked a Generation.

Plot: As Allen Ginsberg talks about his life and art, his most famous poem is illustrated in animation while the obscenity trial of the work is dramatized.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I know little about the works of Ginsberg so this picture won't have as much of an effect on me as it would on someone familiar with his writings.  The film's story is told from the telling of Ginsberg (Franco), the trial (I really want Jon Hamm on my side in court), Ginsberg in flashback at a poetry reading which includes some neat animation.  Franco isn't as solid as he needed to be.  He comes across like an actor reciting lines rather than the words flowing from his mouth as they come to him like they would in conversation.  He does much better during the poetry readings.  I realize how trite this sounds but Franco's facial hair looked pretty bad, as in either fake or it was darkened a lot.  Perhaps if I spent some time with Ginsberg's poem this film is based on the movie would resonate more soundly.  The Oscilloscope DVD has a few extras with a commentary from Franco and the directors, a making of featurette (40 minutes), interviews the directors conducted with Ginsberg's close friends and collaborators (29 minutes), Ginsberg reading Howl in 1995 (25 minutes), Franco's reading (audio only) of the same poem (25 minutes) and trailers for 3 Oscilloscope films including this one.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Van Helsing (2004)

Director: Stephen Sommers

Writer: Stephen Sommers

Composer: Alan Silvestri

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley, Elena Anaya, Will Kemp, Kevin J. O'Connor, Alun Armstrong, Tom Fisher, Samuel West, Robbie Coltrane

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The One Name They All Fear

Plot: The notorious monster hunter is sent to Transylvania to stop Count Dracula who is using Dr. Frankenstein's research and a werewolf for some sinister purpose.

My rating: 3/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Over-acting, excess on nearly every level and overkill are the first words that come to mind.  I waited more than a decade to watch this because I'd heard nothing but crap about it.  I figured, how bad can it be?  In the first twenty minutes I found out.  The best thing about this picture is the set design.  The laboratory is fantastic and I LOVED how the opening B&W scenes looked but that didn't last long.  The dialogue is corny and most of the actors broke under the weight of the silly crap they had to speak and their over the top performances.  I'd be hammered in no time flat if I took a shot of whiskey every time some creature hissed or showed their teeth.  Unbelievable.  Jackman (as Van Helsing) and Hensley (as Frankenstein's Monster) fare the best but they're surrounded by an almost constant barrage of action and noise that it belittles their talent.  David Wenham was fun but I didn't like how much he was there for comic relief.  The film runs a good two hours before the credits roll, something I was waiting for after about a half hour.  It's just too loud, obnoxious and bombastic for my tastes.  I can see why people hate on this movie so much.  I really dug the production design, art direction and a lot of the costume design.  I'd buy any of those cats a drink if I ever met any of them.  Everyone else, though, owes me a drink or two.  I guess the fault mostly lies on writer/director Sommers.  Maybe it's the George Lucas effect in play that did him in.  Either way...woof!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour (2010)

Director: Kerthy Fix

Composers: Le Tigre

Starring: Johanna Fateman, Kathleen Hanna, Jocelyn Samson

More info: IMDb

Plot: Girl band Le Tigre is best known for their sociopolitical lyrics, electronic beats, and choreographed dance moves. Shot over the course of the band's final tour , Le Tigre: On Tour, follows Kathleen, Johanna, and JD's 10-year herstory of celebrating the legacy of feminism.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Never heard of them?  They're an electronic feminist punk band that look and sound like an edgier Go-Go's.  I first learned of them when one of their tunes was used in the British TV comedy, IDEAL (2005).  They've got some really good tunes.  This documentary spends time with them on their final tour, exploring their music, message and purpose.  Periodically we get to see them perform a song in its entirety so if you're not familiar with them you get a good sampling of their music in this 72 minute film.  It's fun spending time with the glas.  It's not heavy but it's far from being a fluff piece. Fans of the band will want this Oscilloscope DVD.  You get a 30 minute sit down with the band, 7 performances, 2 outtakes (5 minutes), a live show in Vienna (22 minutes), the band interviewed by Rattina the Puppet (3 minutes) and trailers for 5 other Oscilloscope films.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Silence the Witness (1974)

Original title: Il Testimone Deve Tacere

Director: Giuseppe Rosati

Writers: Vito Bruschini, Giuseppe Pulieri, Giuseppe Rosati

Composer: Francesco De Masi

Starring: Bekim Fehmiu, Rosanna Schiaffino, Aldo Giuffre, Guido Leontini, Romolo Valli, Elio Zamuto, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Nicastro, Guido Alberti, Corrado Annicelli

More info: IMDb

Plot:  De Luca is killed by Marchetti's chauffeur. Marchetti ordered the murder because he was to be accused by De Luca. The two have a car accident while going home to get an alibi. There is a witness, Sironi, who calls the police. But when the police arrive the car has gone and so have the two men. Inspector Santi and young judge Novelli look into the strange case. Marchetti, however, is a powerful man and Sironi and his family begin to be obsessed first by threats then by assaults.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.


What starts out being a run of the mill crime drama about corruption ends up being a film with balls and the confidence to end on a really sour note.  The performances seemed fine (the copy I had was dubbed in English...and a lousy looking VHS rip to boot), as was the music, direction and everything else but it was the story that really sets this one above a lot of these type of Italian "poliziotteschi" pictures from the 70s.  See, the bad guys win and they win big.  They're able to slowly but surely wear down the witness by having his trusted assistant quit, have his medical license suspended pending a formal investigation that will end with his being barred from practicing medicine ever again and his wife being raped while he's forced to watch (a nice scene, too, because the camera stays on his face the entire time.  We only hear his wife and see him endure the  Only then does he realize their lives are next and he's powerless to stop them.  Then there's the detective on the case that has passed up every opportunity and threat from the bad guys until one day when, out of the blue, he gets a huge promotion to Chief Inspector and he'll be transferred to another part of the country plus a big vacation and so on.  He accepts it knowing that his adversaries are a lot more powerful than he is.  Bam!  End of the picture.  I really didn't see it ending that way and thought the film would go on to bring the bad guys down but they made it unharmed.  It's a great, shocking ending that elevates this picture above what you would normally get from other films.  I might've given this a higher grade if the print I watched wasn't so horrible and it were presented in a gorgeous image in the original Italian.  I'm sure it would play much better that way.  Still, I guess that shows you how good it is that I could see it in absolute shit condition and still come out the other side liking it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Enforcer (1976)

Director: James Fargo

Writers: Stirling Silliphant, Dean Riesner, Gail Morgan Hickman, S.W. Schurr

Composer: Jerry Fielding

Starring:  Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daly, Harry Guardino, Bradford Dillman, John Mitchum, DeVeren Bookwalter, John Crawford, Samantha Doane, Robert F. Hoy, Jocelyn Jones, M.G. Kelly, Nick Pellegrino, Albert Popwell, Rudy Ramos, Joe Spano

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  The "dirtiest" Harry of them all!

Plot:  Dirty Harry must foil a terrorist organization made up of disgruntled Vietnam veterans. But this time, he's teamed with a rookie female partner that he's not too excited to be working with.

My rating:  7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

This third film in the DIRTY HARRY (1971) franchise starts to get sillier and more outlandish with Harry doing whatever it takes to bring the bad guys down.  I still like it despite the dependence on one liners and the topical nature of the story.  On one hand it's great that Harry is forced to deal with A) having a partner after working alone for so long and B) having a woman fill that spot.  It very much feels like a picture where someone said, "Hey, let's tackle INSERT SOCIAL ISSUE HERE" and they made this picture.  There's just something about it but then they're taking a larger than life character and seeing what happens when they introduce him to something that's...not him.  I appreciate it on that level.  There's one thing you can't say about the series thus far and that's that the filmmakers aren't covering the same old ground; they're trying something different.  Also worth mentioning is the inclusion of Albert Popwell, a longtime friend of Eastwoods.  He's in the first four pictures and died before the fifth was made.  He's a lot of fun and it's always a treat to see this guy show up in stuff.  I really dig a lot of these 70s crime flicks.  They're grittier than before and they show us a world that almost seems foreign to the post-1980s world.  The Warner Bros. 4 Film Favorites: Dirty Harry Collection has the first four films.  This one is presented in anamorphic widescreen and the features you get are a commentary track from James Fargo, a 30 minute featurette called THE BUSINESS END: VIOLENCE IN CINEMA (anamorphic widescreen), an 8 minute vintage making of doc called HARRY CALLAHAN/CLINT EASTWOOD: SOMETHING SPECIAL IN FILMS and trailers for all 5 films in the franchise.  You can pick up this set online for less than $8 (including shipping).  It's a no-brainer.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Chisum (1970)

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Writer: Andrew J. Fenady

Composer: Dominic Frontiere

Starring: John Wayne, Forrest Tucker, Christopher George, Ben Johnson, Glenn Corbett, Andrew Prine, Bruce Cabot, Patric Knowles, Richard Jaeckel, Lynda Day George, Geoffrey Deuel, Pamela McMyler, John Agar, Lloyd Battista, Robert Donner, John Mitchum, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Christopher Mitchum, William Conrad

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  THE LEGEND - John Wayne is "Chisum"

Plot: Cattle baron John Chisum joins forces with Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett to fight the Lincoln County land war.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I've seen very little of John Wayne's pictures in the last thirty years.  I like the guy but he generally played just one type of character and I guess you could simply classify that as playing John Wayne.  The great thing about it is it works great for Westerns but not so much in modern day.  While this film might have some basis in actual history, I got the impression that almost the entire film was one big exercise and making shit up for the sake of making an entertaining film.  It is fun.  It's got a great cast and everyone does a fine job.  Tucker plays a great villain and a great antagonist to Wayne's good guy.  SPOILERS ON THE RANGE....YARRRRR!!!  I've got a couple of beefs with the film.  The first is after Billy the Kid (Deuel doing a fine job of it) kills the two deputies and then the sheriff.  Murphy (Tucker) is completely justified in his actions as Billy worked for Chisum (Wayne) even though he acted on his own and in no way involved Chisum.  But no one else would know that.  As far as anyone not associated with Chisum was concerned, Billy was still working for Chisum and could've acted on his belhalf.  Murphy was an asshole and a bad man but he was on the right side of the law.  The other thing was herding the cows through town as the only option Chisum & pals had. Chisum was warned the town was blocked off but it was only a small portion of the main street that was barricaded. Chisum could have done any number of things to easily get around it.  I get why it was done.  The stampede created something easy and exciting for the climax of the picture.  That's the only reason.  I understand but the moment I started thinking about it, the moment the plot just fell apart.  It's still a fun movie.  I'd almost be inclined to say I'd watch it again but there are a ton more Westerns (and some JW pictures) that I've yet to see and those will have to take precedence.  Now if this shows up in a theater somewhere, consider my ass in the seat with corn & Coke ready to go.  The Warner Bros.  DVD anamorphic widescreen print looks fantastic.  The only non-text extras you get are a commentary from McLaglen and the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen).

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Son of Paleface (1952)

Director: Frank Tashlin

Writers: Frank Tashlin, Robert L. Welch, Joseph Quillan

Composer: Lyn Murray

Starring: Bob Hope, Jane Russell, Roy Rogers, Trigger, Bill Williams, Lloyd Corrigan, Paul E. Burns, Douglass Dumbrille, Harry von Zell, Iron Eyes Cody, William 'Wee Willie' Davis, Charles Cooley, Bing Crosby, Cecil B. DeMille, Jerry Mathers

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Junior Potter returns to claim his father's gold, which is nowhere to be found. "Mike" is the luscious head of a gang of thieves, and Roy Barton is the federal marshal hot on her trail.

My rating:  7/10 Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Hee hee hee.  I don't think I've ever seen a Bob Hope picture all the way through.  A long time ago I was channel surfing and I stopped on one where he was on a horse-drawn wagon being chased by Indians.  He finds a bunch of bananas, eats them quickly, throws the peels behind them and the horses slip on the peels and tumble.  OMFG, it was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen.  Gut bustingly funny.  I never knew what that movie was until it showed up at the end of this picture.  It's still a gut buster.  Hope is hysterical and that guy has got some of the smoothest comedy timing I've ever seen.  He's quick.  And this might be the first Jane Russell picture I've seen, too.  She's SMOKING HOT and a great performer.  The song that she sings (I think it's Buttons and Bows) with Hope and Roy Rogers is fun and she's wonderful in it.  There are A LOT of gags and funny lines in this picture and there are some great bits of sexual innuendo.  I thoroughly enjoyed this.  I should fast track watching some more Hope pictures. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Soldier of Fortune (1976)

Original title: Il Soldato di Ventura

Director: Pasquale Festa Campanile

Writers: Franco Castellano, Giuseppe Moccia, Marcello Verucci, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Luigi Magni

Composers: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis

Starring: Bud Spencer, Franco Agostini, Enzo Cannavale, Frederic de Pasquale, Jacques Dufiho, Andrea Ferreol, Jacues Herlin, Angelo Infanti, Philippe Leroy, Oreste Lionello, Antonio Orlando, Eros Pagni, Renzo Palmer, Gino Pernice

More info: IMDb

Plot: Medieval soldier of fortune Ettore is travelling through Europe with his partners looking for fight where they can earn some money. When they come across a Spanish castle under siege by the French army, Ettore first bides his time to determine which side is the winning one (and thus more likely to pay his fee). This is as first the French, but the treatment he receives from them is unpleasant enough to make him change his mind and turn to the Spanish side. Somehow, Ettore must rally the weakened Spanish troops to battle their enemy long enough for reinforcements to arrive.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Medieval Spain...tis a silly place.  Tis a silly movie.  I don't mind the silly when it makes me laugh but the comedy here is broad and often too silly for me but I did laugh every once in a while.  Bud Spencer makes the movie.  I've mostly only seen his films from the 70s and he's always likable.  The location shooting is really nice and even though the print I saw as dirty, it's a good looking movie.  the G&M De Angelis score is repetitive, goofy and sometimes fun.  This film was made for the younger audience.  Families with young kids will like it.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Breach (2007)

Director: Billy Ray

Writers: Adam Mazer, William Rotko, Billy Ray

Composer: Mychael Danna

Starring: Chris Cooper,  Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney, Caroline Dhavernas, Gary Cole, Dennis Haysbert, Kathleen Quinlan, Bruce Davison, Jonathan Watton, Tom Barnett

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Inspired by the true story of the greatest security breach in U.S. history.

Plot: FBI upstart Eric O'Neill enters into a power game with his boss, Robert Hanssen, an agent who was put on trial for selling secrets to the Soviet Union.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.  Twice is fine.

I last saw this in the theater.  Back then I was a budding fan of Chris Cooper and his role in this and the story are what drove me to see it.  He's a great actor and he brings a lot to this picture.  It's a good thriller with some performances and a couple of tense moments.  What I liked most was not the attempts and drumming up tension but what Cooper brought to the role.  You're never sure if Hanssen (Cooper) is onto O'Neill (Phillippe) which for me was the driving force in the success of the film.   You find out by the end but it's a great game up until then.  I was bothered by Laura Linney's performance as O'Neill's boss, Kate Burroughs.  She bursts on the scene as a ball-busting, crass and curt cunt of a woman when it comes to her treatment of O'Neill.  Either she was too good at her job (Linney in the role) and this is how her character was or she was over the top or it was a combination of that and the editing for her first scene with O'Neill.  She mellows out to be more caring and likable by the end but that first encounter is too awkward not to throw up a couple of red flags that something was wrong with that scene.  But it's just that one scene I have a problem with.  I dig the cast, the performances, the pacing and overall execution of the film.  It's a good thriller that shouldn't be overlooked.  That it's based on a true story is remarkable already.  I'm going to cut loose of the DVD as I'll probably never get around to the director's commentary along side the real O'Neill.  I'm sure it's fascinating but I've got thousands of movies staring me in the face that I should watch first.  Nuts.  In addition to the commentary, the Universal DVD has a bunch of extras including 8 deleted scenes with optional commentary from Ray and editor Jeffrey Ford, 2 alternate scenes with optional commentary from the same pair, two featurettes on the making of the film (17 minutes in total with one of them "Brought to you by Volkswagon"...THE FUCK?) and a 19 minute segment from the show DATELINE (from 3/5/01, days after the arrest of Hanssen) which is painful to watch as the host of the piece (I don't recognize this guy) is overacting his ass off.  The information is great but his delivery is laughably dramatic as all get out.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (2010)

Director: Yony Leyser

Writer: Yony Leyser

Composers: John Bellows, Devin McNulty, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo

Starring: William S. Burroush, David Cronenbert, Allen Ginsberg, Iggy Pop, Genesis P-Orridge, Patti Smith, v. Vale, Gus Van Sant, John Waters, Peter Weller

More info: IMDb

Plot: William S. Burroughs: featuring never before seen footage as well as exclusive interviews with his closest friends and colleagues.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I'm only aware of what Burroughs is famous for through films but this is the first time that I watched anything on the man's life.  He's one of the most influential writers of the 20th Century and I can start to see why.  The film is a conventional biography doc with interviews from those who knew him and were inspired by him as well as archival film, photographs and audio (a lot of which is from his last years).  It's really interesting (from someone like me who was barely familiar with the man and his contribution to just about everything in the last fifty years).  The Oscilloscope DVD has a bunch of extras that will make this an easy purchase for WSB fans.  You get 3 deleted scenes, home movies (17 minutes), 2 minutes of super 8 film with WSB creating shotgun art,  another super 8 film of the band Sonic Youth visiting WSB in 1995 (3 minutes and with narration), Peter Weller and others at a 50th anniversary tribute in 2009 (15 minutes), WSB reading The Last Words of Hassan Sabbah in a music video Rub out the Word (3 minutes), Patti Smith reading Psalm 23 Revisited in WSB's old NY apartment (1 minute), a Q&A with the director at a film festival (12 minutes) and trailers for 3 Oscilloscope films (including this one).

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Magnum Force (1973)

Director: Ted Post

Writers: John Milius, Michael Cimino

Composer: Lalo Schifrin

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan, David Soul, Tim Matheson, Kip Niven, Robert Urich, Felton Perry, Maurice Argent, Margaret Avery, Richard Devon, John Mitchum, Albert Popwell

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A man's got to know his limitations.

Plot: Dirty Harry is on the trail of vigilante cops who are not above going beyond the law to kill the city's undesirables.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Probably what I like most about this second film in the Dirty Harry series is how they take the rogue cop premise further by have a group of them AND Harry isn't involved but he's set on bringing these vigilante cops down.  It's a great follow-up to DIRTY HARRY (1971) and it's a lot of fun.  Then there's the top notch cast with a lot of young faces of actors on the rise all doin' their thing behind a groovy Lalo Schifrin score.  The San Francisco locations are bright and fresh.  I dig it.  The Warner Bros. 4 Film Favorites: Dirty Harry Collection has the first four films.  This one is presented in anamorphic widescreen and the features you get are a commentary track from John Milius (!!!) (looking forward to hearing that one), a featurette called A MORAL RIGHT: THE POLITICS OF DIRTY HARRY (24 minutes, anamorphic widescreen), another one caled THE HERO COP: YESTERDAY AND TODAY (8 minute vintage behind the scenes doc, fullscreen) and trailers for all five DH films.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Land That Time Forgot (1975)

Director: Kevin Connor

Writers: Edgar Rice Burroughs, James Cawthorn, Michael Moorcock

Composer: Douglas Gamley

Starring: Doug McClure, John McEnery, Susan Penhaligon, Keith Barron, Anthony Ainley, Godfrey James, Bobby Parr, Declan Mulholland, Colin Farell, Ben Howard, Roy Holder, Andrew McCulloch, Ron Pember

More info: IMDb


Plot: During World War I, a German U-boat sinks a British ship and takes the survivors on board. After it takes a wrong turn, the submarine takes them to the unknown land of Caprona, where they find dinosaurs and neanderthals.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I guess I like the idea of these kinds of movies more than the films themselves.  I'm talking about the spate of dinosaur flicks from the 70s.  THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977) is my favorite.  It's just fun as hell and that includes the cornball special effects.  This picture has bad dino effects, too, but it's also a bland-ish film.  It's not a bad film in that it is enjoyable but it lacks something I can't quite place.  It'd be great to be 6 again and see this in the theater.  That's probably the best way to enjoy this.  The acting is fine for what it is and it's a good looking picture but when you consider it takes half the film to get to the titular place it's already started to overstay its welcome.  The first half is submarine drama.  It's not bad sub drama but it's not exactly getting anyone excited and by the time you get to dino land, a lot of the wind has been taken out of the film.  There's no need to see it again but I am keen to see the sequel, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977). The MGM Midnite Movies set has both films.  I haven't seen the sequel yet but this film is presented in a great looking anamorphic widescreen print with the sole extra being the anamorphic widescreen trailer.

Monday, February 15, 2016

SpiderBabe (2003)

Director: Johnny Crash

Writers: John Paul Fedele, Terry M. West

Composer: ???

Starring: Erin Brown (as Misty Mundae), Julian Wells, Darian Caine, Adam Cox, Christine Domaniecki, Peter Quarry, Michael R. Thomas, Shelby Taylor, John Link, Justin Wingenfeld, John Paul Fedele

More info: IMDb

Plot: A socially awkward young woman gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a crime-fighting superhero and tries to defeat a nefarious super villain while going after any man (or woman) she wants to bed down with.

My rating: 3/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Bad acting, writing, dialogue, sound (the microphones picked up WAY too much sound like you can hear the juices in people's mouths every time they move their jaws to speak), cheesy synthesizer music and static camera shots don't necessarily mean that it's so bad it's good.  This one isn't although it's trying to be.  Imagine SPIDER-MAN as a cheap softcore porno but without the sotfcore porn bits to make it at least a little more interesting.  There's some nudity and lesbian action but it's really weak and brief.   It hits a lot of the beats of the Spider-Man origin story (as told in the 2002 film) and they at least try to make it amusing but most of the joke fall flat.  The cheapness of the whole film works against it.  8 year olds will find it funny but they'd just watch it for the tits.  Hell, even the DVD is poorly produced.  Every time the songs or music takes over in volume there's a strange fluctuation as if someone is rapidly turning the sound up and down and back again, over and over.  I'm sure everyone involved had a great time making this and I'm glad they got paid for it.  The Ventura DVD has a lot of extras.  After all of that, there is one thing that I liked in this picture...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Battle of Blood Island (1960)

Director: Joel Rapp

Writers: Joel Rapp, Philip Roth

Composer: Fred Katz

Starring:  Richard Devon, Ron Gans

More info: IMDb

Tagline: 10,000 men attack--only two got through!

Plot:  Two American GIs are the only survivors of a unit wiped out in a battle with Japanese troops on an isolated island. The two, who don't like each other, find try to put aside their differences in order to evade the Japanese and survive.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.


Drinking game: take a drink every time Ken (Gans) says "Moe".  It's uncanny how many dozens of time he says it in about an hour.  It's as bad as Alec Baldwin saying "Charles" in THE EDGE (1997).  I expected a boring low budget Roger Corman picture like SKI TROOP ATTACK (1960) but it was a lot better and easily more interesting.  The 'battle' isn't physical but mental.  It's a psychological war drama.  There are some really cool ideas floated in this picture like the homoerotic relationship that is hinted between these two guys.  It's definitely there.  Then there's the cool scene where the Japanese soldiers kill themselves because they just found out they lost the war.  The two Americans only speculate because they don't know this and the enemy's radio was destroyed.  Then you've got the cool as shit part when American ships show up in the distance and soon after there are goats on the island.  It turn out that island, though deserted, had been designated an atomic bomb testing site.  The movie ends with the pair being rescued but how amazing would it be if they weren't and they ended up being at ground zero getting blown to bits?  THAT would've been some ballsy filmmaking!  Despite that, it's still a pretty good low budget flick.  Corman knew how to get the most out of his nickels and he sure got it with this one. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Spaceways (1953)

Director: Terence Fisher

Writers: Richard H. Landau, Charles Eric Maine, Paul Tabori

Composer: Ivor Slaney

Starring: Howard Duff, Eva Bartok, Alan Wheatley, Philip Leaver, Michael Medwin, Andrew Osborn, Cecile Chevreau, Anthony Ireland, Hugh Moxey, david Horne, Leo Phillips, Marianne Stone, Jean Webster-Brough

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  The screen's first story of SPACE ISLANDS in the sky!

Plot:  A small group of closely-guarded British scientists test their first rocket amidst indications of matrimonial strife in the community. After the partial failure of the firing, a couple go missing - have they gone off together or are their murdered bodies circling the earth in the remains of the rocket?

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Those movie poster are nothing but lies!  They only TALK about the possibility of building a space station.  In the last 7 minutes a manned rocket blasts into space.  Until then it's all talk and there's an investigation in progress that points to Mitchell (Duff) killing his wife and her lover and stuffing them in the fuel tank of the satellite that launches maybe a half hour in.  Mitchell's solution?  Invent a rocket that can sustain a human pilot and retrieve the satellite to prove his innocence! And the worst part is, it's not nearly as fun as that premise sounds.  I must say, though, that I wasn't bored but it's hardly an exciting film that would get 1953 audiences excited about going into space.  The ending is rather abrupt.  I guess you've got to get the kids out of the theater for the next show.  It's only 76 minutes and it's not that bad.  I really wanted to see some space action courtesy of Hammer Films.  Sigh.  The Image DVD only has the film's trailer for an extras. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Azumi (2003)

Director: Ryuhei Kitamura

Writers: Yu Koyama, Mataichiro Yamamoto, Isao Kiriyama

Composer: Taro Iwashiro

Starring: Aya Ueto, Kenji Kohashi, Hiroki Narimiya, Takatoshi Kaneko, Yuma Ishigaki, Yasuomi Sano, Shinji Suzuki, Eita, Shogo Yamaguchi, Shun Oguri, Jo Odagiri

More info: IMDb

Tagline: From the ravages of war rises the ultimate assassin.

Plot: Raised to deal in cold blooded death, the teenage assassin girl Azumi must defeat three evil warlords while also battling her own heart.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

If you should start watching this and find it too slow, do not give up on it until after the kids leave their mountain home and begin their journey.  Their Master makes them do something that will splendidly fuck you up and it's awesome.  There's lots of gore throughout the picture and a lot of people die, especially at the end.  The evil assassin in white, Bijomura Mogami (the Japanese equivalent to Billy Drago), is a lot of fun and he's a refreshingly fun character.  The cast does a fine job and all and I liked the picture.  It ends up being a better film than it started out as.  If there's one issue I've got it's the odd shots that you'd expect from a much lesser film.   Hell, even Peter Jackson had a handful of shots in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy that felt like something a low budget film maker (with some talent, mind you) would use but they stood out in a proper, polished film.  I knew by the DVD text that this director is the same guy behind VERSUS (2000) which I dug.  The action was great.  But I was surprised to see that he also made THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008).  I like his work and I'll have to check out more of it.  Good stuff.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

Director: Anatole Litvak

Writer: Lucille Fletcher

Composer:  Franz Waxman

Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey, Harold Vermilyea, Ed Begley, Leif Erickson, William Conrad, John Bromfield, Jimmy Hunt, Dorothy Neuman, Paul Fierro

More info: IMDb

Tagline: She overheard the plans for her own destruction!

Plot:  Leona Stevenson is sick and confined to her bed. One night, whilst waiting for her husband to return home, she picks up the phone and accidentally overhears a conversation between two men planning a murder. She becomes increasingly desperate as she tries to work out who the victim is so the crime can be prevented.

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

OK, so I'm watching this picture and it's annoying all crazy like with the tennis match of characters giving an awful lot of exposition.  Then you've got Stanwyck on a freak out/screaming binge that lasts several minutes.  I wanted to shut it off for a while to get that shrill out of my head.  Geez, was that annoying.  That's mostly the first half of the picture.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that the second half is pretty damn good and it's got one of the best endings I've ever seen.  HOLY SHIT!!!  WOW!!!  It's worth sitting through the discomforting first half to get to that finale moment.  I'm shocked.  I'm flummoxed.  Somebody just hit me upside the head with the WTF stick.  It is a good thriller except for that first half that really threw me of.  The ending is so good that I went from knowing I'd never watch it again to at least giving it another chance someday.  And the buildup in the last ten minutes is pretty damn tense.  I'm really surprised that Paramount had the balls to do it.  Just.  WOW!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale (2009)

Director:  Richard Shepard

Composer: Adam Gorgoni

Starring:  John Cazale, Steve Buscemi, Sam Rockwell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Shepard, Fred Roos, Francis Ford Coppola, Richard Dreyfuss, Brett Ratner, Sidney Lumet, Olympia Dukakis, Robyn Goodman, Israel Horovitz, Mark Haris, Gene Hackman, Carol Kane, Marvin Starkman, Steve Cazale, Robert De Niro, John Savage

More info: IMDb

Plot:  A portrait of the acting craft of John Cazale and a tour through the movies that defined a generation.

My rating:  7.5/10

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

It's amazing that this guy was only in five movies and all of them were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.  This is a great and short (39 minutes) documentary on the man and his work with tons of interviews from some great actors and showbiz types who either knew, worked or admired him.  It's really neat hearing all of the anecdotes from people you admire.  The Oscilloscope DVD has a few extras including a commentary track with the director, an extended interview with Al Pacino (20 minutes) and Israel Horovitz (23 minutes), a 10 minute short film Cazale was in called THE AMERICAN WAY (1962), and another short 10 minute film called THE BOX (1969) where he was the cameraman and then there are trailers for 7 films released by Oscilloscope.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sorority Girl (1957)

Director: Roger Corman

Writers: Leo Lieberman, Ed Waters

Composer: Ronald Stein

Starring:  Susan Cabot, Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, June Kennedy, Barbara Cowan, Fay Baker, Jeane Wood, Joan Lora, Jay Sayer, Beach Dickerson, Shirley Cleveland, Donna Leary, Laurine Hastings

More info: IMDb

Tagline: TINA - Too pretty to be good!

Plot:  A poor-little-rich-girl feels alienated by her mother and enacts a string of revenges on her fellow pupils at a girls' boarding school. However, she is outcast when one of her stunts nearly drives a girl to suicide.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah.

You might be disappointed like me if you think this is going to be more exploitative like the title, poster and everything else suggests.  There is a little of that (especially in the spanking scene and subsequent cat fight...oh my) but it's mostly sorority drama.  That doesn't mean it's not entertaining, it is to a degree, but if you came for promises of college girls gettin' all nasty and such, you'll be let down.  I'm just trying to prepare you, that's all.  It's always great to see Dick Miller in anything and here's he's got a sizable and important role.  The acting across the board is pretty good and visually Corman keeps it from being dull.  I can't say I was bored at any time.  The hour running time plays in its favor.  Stretch this sumbitch out to 90 minutes and the boredom factor would definitely set in and ruin the picture.  If only more movies knew to be shorter for the integrity of the picture and the entertainment of its viewers.  

Monday, February 8, 2016

Family Business (1989)

Director: Sidney Lumet

Writer: Vincent Patrick

Composer: Cy Coleman

Starring: Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, Matthew Broderick, Rosanna DeSoto, Janet Carroll, Victoria Jackson, Bill McCutcheon, Deborah Rush, James Tolkan, Luis Guzman, BD Wong

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  There's nothing like a good robbery... to bring a family together.

Plot:  Jessie is an ageing career criminal who has been in more jails, fights, schemes, and lineups than just about anyone else. His son Vito, while currently on the straight and narrow, has had a fairly shady past and is indeed no stranger to illegal activity. They both have great hope for Adam, Vito's son and Jessie's grandson, who is bright, good-looking, and without a criminal past. So when Adam approaches Jessie with a scheme for a burglary he's shocked, but not necessarily disinterested....

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

I caught this in the theater in '89 and I walked out bewildered.  Part of it was Coleman's sometimes-out-of-place score (as if it legitimately was intended for a film in the 40s but there were some nice parts, too) and the casting.  I LOVE Sean Connery and he's great in this but it's a big stretch to try and convince me that he's Dustin Hoffman's father.  I'm glad he did the picture but he stands out more than he probably should.  The family lunch scene when Adam (Broderick)  brings his gal, Christine (Jackson), is fun and uncomfortable.  It shows how honest and intimidating Connery can be.  It's not a bad picture and there are some strong moments.  Fans of any of these three cats should check it out.  The Tri Star DVD sports an anamorphic widescreen print with 3 trailers (this film and DONNIE BRASCO (both fullscreen) and THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS (anamorphic widescreen) for the only extras.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Jesse Stone 4: Sea Change (2007)

Director:  Robert Harmon

Writers: Robert B. Parker, Ronni Kern

Composer: Jeff Beal

Starring: Tom Selleck, Kathy Baker, Kohl Sudduth, Rebecca Pidgeon, Sean Young, Mika Boorem, Stephen McHattie, William Sadler, James Gammon, Nigel Bennett, Saul Rubinek, Viola Davis, William Devane

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Sometimes it takes a flawed man to solve the perfect murder.

Plot:  When Police Chief Jesse Stone's relationship with his ex-wife worsens, he fears he will relapse into alcoholism. To get his mind off his problems, Jesse begins working on the unsolved murder of a bank teller shot during a robbery. Meanwhile, Stone's investigation of an alleged rape draws him into conflict with the town council, which hopes to preserve Paradise's reputation as an ideal seaside resort.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

All of these Jesse Stone picture feel about the same for me.  I like some of the actors that pop up like Saul Rubinek and William Devane (we could use more from these guys), Jeff Beal's score is moody and relaxing as is Selleck's performance.  They're comfortable movies that don't suck but aren't without flaws that would make them exceptional.  Someday I'll watch these for a second time and then I might be ready to pick out my favorites for a possible repeat viewing.

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Director: Richard Donner

Writers: Jeffrey Boam, Shane Black, Warren Murphy

Composers: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn

Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Joss Ackland, Derrick O'Connor, Patsy Kensit, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mark Rolston, Jenette Goldstein, Dean Norris

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The magic is back!

Plot:  Riggs and Murtaugh are on the trail of South African diplomats who are using their immunity to engage in criminal activities.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably.

While this is definitely a step down from the first film, it's still fun and it helps that Gibson and Glover have a great chemistry together.  Joe Pesci is a nice addition and he brings some funny moments.  The sequels get goofier as they go on but the action is always good and there's a great sense of fun, even if the writing goes downhill fast.  Now that I've re-watched the series and there's been a lot of years since I saw them last, there's enough distance between the viewings to see them in a lesser light.  They're not as good as I remembered and their weaknesses are more apparent.  Ugh.  Now I've got 3 & 4 to write about.  I've got the older Warner Bros. DVD box set (each movie is in a snap case) which has this film in non anamorphic widescreen (boo) the besides a bunch of text, the extras you get are the theatrical trailer (also non anamorphic widescreen) and a 4 minute piece on stunts and action. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Copycat (1995)

Director: Jon Amiel

Writers: Ann Biderman, David Madsen

Composer: Christopher Young

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney, William McNamara, Harry Connick Jr., J.E. Freeman, Will Patton, John Rothman, Shannon O'Hurley

More info: IMDb

Tagline: One man is copying the most notorious killers in history one at a time. Together, two women must stop him from killing again. Or they're next.

Plot:  An agoraphobic psychologist and a female detective must work together to take down a serial killer who copies serial killers from the past.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

When I saw this nearly twenty years ago I left the theater underwhelmed.  It's a gimmick serial killer movie with the conceit that Helen (Weaver) was home bound and she works with Monahan (Hunter) to catch a killer.  SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) was such a huge hit that it created a renaissance in the serial killer genre which meant a very few good films on the subject along with a lot of mediocre and shitty ones.  Rather than cook up a good story, many of them relied on a gimmick or an angle to set them apart.  This picture is OK at best.  Weaver feels like she's trying a bit too hard but then the film feels that way, too.  I get the impression that the filmmakers thought they had something special, and I guess at times they made some good moments, but it touches on so many genre cliches and drag the picture out to two plus hours that an hour or so in I was ready for this ride to stop.  The Warner Bros. DVD set (4 Film Favorites - Thriller with THE CRUSH, PACIFIC HEIGHTS and DIABOLIQUE) says this is widescreen but it's fullscreen.   The only extras you get include the trailer (fullscreen) and a commentary track with the director.  I saw PH and DIABOLIQUE when they first came out and I wasn't impressed with either so I'm just going to go ahead and get rid of this one at the next garage sale.  I waste enough time watching OK-at-best movies, I don't need to add more to the list. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Bandolero! (1968)

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Writers: James Lee Barrett, Stanley Hough

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: James Stewart, Dean Martin, Raquel Welch, George Kennedy, Andrew Prine, Will Geer, Clint Ritchie, Denver Pyle, Tom Heaton, Rudy Diaz, Sean McClory, Harry Carey Jr., Don 'Red' Barry, Guy Raymond, Perry Lopez, Jock Mahoney, Dub Taylor, Big John Hamilton, Robert Adler, John Mitchum, Patrick Cranshaw, Roy Barcroft, Joe Gray, Wade Phillips

More info: IMDb

Tagline: There are "Westerns" and "Westerns". Every now and then comes a NEW kind of Western. This is "BANDOLERO!".

Plot: Mace Bishop masquerades as a hangman in order to save his outlaw brother from the gallows, runs to Mexico chased by the sheriff's posse and fights against Mexican bandits.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Great location shooting, great cast, great score, good movie.   The first half hour is a lot of fun with Mace (Stewart) secretly planning something that you know is going to good, the almost hanging and then the bank robbery.  Then act 2 starts with the Sheriff (Kennedy) and his posse going after the bad guys (it's nice, btw, seeing Stewart and Martin as outlaws for a change) and Mace and Dee (Martin) talk about their relationship in their past and their future.  Meanwhile Maria (Welch) pulls a weird move where she starts to dig on Dee even though he's partly responsible for killing her husband hours/days before.  Hell, I'd probably fall for Dean Martin, too, and my dick don't swing that way.   The location shooting (in Arizona and Utah) is drop dead gorgeous.  The Mexican bandidos subplot feels a little forced as if they only exist to cause chaos at the film's climax to kill off nearly all of the folks we've been following.  It's even more obvious as they all run away as soon as they see their leader is dead despite easily out-numbering the gringos 5 to 1 and winning the fight.  I did like who the film makers chose to keep alive.  I certainly didn't see that coming.  There's a lot to dig in this film but as a whole it feels like a little more attention could have been paid to working in the Mexican bandits as something more than a lazy plot device and a little more attention paid to fleshing out the budding romance.  It's remarkable how a few days in movie life is all it takes to fall for someone.  Maybe it's being in an extraordinary circumstance and forced to deal with death.  Still, it's a fun flick and the cast goes a long way in making it so.  Geez I want to move back out West to live out my days.  Mmmmm.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (2006)

Director: Stephen Kijak

Composer: Scott Walker

Starring: Scott Walker, Damon Albarn, Dot Allison, Marc Almond, David Bates, Jean-Daniel Beauvallet, Ed Bicknell, David Bowie, Al Clark, Jarvis Cocker, Cathal Coughlan, Rob Ellis, Brian Eno, Gavin Friday, Brian Gascoigne, Alison Goldfrapp, COlin Greenwood, Johnny Greenwood, Richard Hawley, Sara Kestelman, Ute Lemper, Lulu, Dave MacRae, Johnny Marr, Angela Morley, Ed O'Brien, Peter Olliff, Evan Parker, Simon Raymonde, Philiop Sheppard, Sting, Peter Walsh, Hector Zazou

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The long-awaited film about the most influential and enigmatic figure in rock history.

Plot: Scott Walker: 30 Century Man is a rare glimpse into the creative world of the most enigmatic figure in rock history, and will trace the undeniable impact he has had on popular music through casual interviews with some of his biggest, highest profile fans. We explore his fascinating trajectory, from jobbing bass player on LA's Sunset Strip, to his domination of the British pop scene that began in the swinging summer of 1965, to his transformation into a composer of true genius; an uncompromising and serious musician working at the peak of his powers. At age 63, over the course of 2005, he went into the studio again, working on what could be his greatest artistic statement yet - and we were invited to document part of this process - a privilege no filmmaker has ever been granted.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe, but I'll definitely check out this guy's records.

For the first few minutes I thought that maybe this guy didn't exist and that I was watching a mocumentary but taken more seriously.  It didn't take long before I realized this guy is for real.   He's got an unusual singing style that's just wild.  At first I wasn't digging it but then it started growing on me and before I knew it I was really into this guy's music.  I was completely sold when it came to his solo output in the late 60s and even more so the more records he made.  Now I'm really hooked and I'm thrilled that I saw this film AND that Walker isn't so reclusive that he wouldn't have participated.  I can't stand it when artists refuse to discuss their work and career.  This guy is cool.  I want this cat's entire catalog. This picture has lots of interviews with people in the music industry as well as the bulk of the film with Walker.  Naturally his music is everywhere and it's wild.  Before this film I'd never heard of him. The Oscilloscope DVD has a few extras including extended interviews with 12 people including Walker (57 minutes), 2 extended bits from Walker's recording of his 2006 album (16 minutes), 9 minutes with the guy who has an AMAZING collection of Scott Walker (and the Walker Brothers) memorabilia (9 minutes) and trailers for 12 Oscilloscope pictures, including this one.