Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Gingerbread Man (1998)

Director: Robert Altman

Writers: John Grisham, Clyde Hayes

Composer:  Mark Isham

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davidtz, Robert Downey Jr., Daryl Hannah, Robert Duvall, Tom Berenger, Famke Janssen, Clyde Hayes, Mae Whitman, Jesse James, Troy Byer

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Lawyer Rick Magruder has a one-night-stand affair with caterer Mallory Doss. He becomes hooked on her, and when he learns her nut-case father Dixon is threatening her, he puts the weight of his law firm behind Mallory, has Dixon arrested and subpoenas her ex-husband Pete to testify against Dixon in court. Dixon is sent to an asylum, but escapes from there and the lives of many people are in danger.

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Remember back in the 90s when Branagh was all over the place in movies?  Yeah?  Well this is one of them.  It's a decent drama but it lacks the tension it takes to make this a decent thriller, which is surprising since this is from Robert Altman.  Granted, it was his first foray into the genre but surely he could've chosen something better.  I guess people thought that Grisham could do no wrong.  Surprise.  The Brit Branagh's Southern accent is good but someone should've stopped Downey from speaking with one.  He should've stuck with his normal dialect.  Not everyone in the South has an accent, you know.  Downey's is pretty bad and at times it's like an Elvis impression.  The Universal DVD has the film in non-anamorphic widescreen.  You get two extras, the theatrical trailer (non-anamorphic widescreen) and a commentary track with Altman.  That's it. 

Over the Top (1987)

Director: Menahem Golan

Writers: Gary Conway, David Engelbach, Stirling Silliphant, Sylvester Stallone

Composer: Giorgio Moroder

Starring:  Sylvester Stallone, Robert Loggia, Susan Blakely, Rick Zumwalt, David Mendenhall, Chris McCarty, Terry Funk, Bob Beattie, Allan Graf, Magic Schwarz

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Some fight for money... Some fight for glory... He's fighting for his son's love

Plot:  Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) is a struggling trucker who arm wrestles on the side to make extra cash while trying to rebuild his life. After the death of his wife, he tries to make amends with his son who he left behind 10 years earlier. Upon their first meeting, his son does not think too highly of him until he enters the World Arm Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas. His hope is to receive the grand prize of $100,000 and an expensive current custom semi-truck and thus start his own trucking company.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

It would be really easy to tear this film apart but it's so likable.  Stallone is a likable guy.  The kid starts out being an ass that needs the switch taken to his backside but he eventually comes around to being nice.  His transition from shit to good is pretty quick but then this flick doesn't have all that much time.  Robert Loggia is great as usual.  One big issue, technically, is the arm wrestling B-story.  I always thought this movie was all about that and it was more of an action movie but then I never saw it until now.  Instead it's more of a father getting in touch with his son and, oh, by the way, there's this World Series of arm wrestling happening in Las Vegas.  I didn't mind the disjointedness of it at all.  There's some dumb shit in the movie but it's professionally crafted without being great.  Everything works out too well for Stallone.  You can see it coming a mile away but it's still entertaining and the movie files by.  It's a reasonably fun, predictable movie. that beer drinkers and Stallone fans can sit through without yelling at the TV.  It could've been a lot worse and that would be just too bad.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Swimming with Sharks (1994)

Director: George Huang

Writer: George Huang

Composer: Tom Hiel

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Frank Whaley, Michelle Forbes, Benicio Del Toro, T.E. Russell, Roy Dotrice, Matthew Flint, Patrick Fischler, Jerry Levine, Sabryn Genet, Kyle Reed

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Back Stabbing - Two Faced - Revenge

Plot: A young, naive Hollywood studio assistant finally turns the tables on his incredibly abusive producer boss.

My rating:  8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

This is not a comedy despite what the poster and trailer try to convince you.  It's a revenge drama.  It can be darkly humorous to see Guy (Whaley) being bullied by Buddy (Spacey) but it's mostly painful.  Really painful.  Spacey's performance alone makes this a must-see.  The Whaley and Forbes are excellent as well.  Del Toro is only in it for maybe five minutes in one scene.  This picture doesn't play out like you think except that it's easy to see Guy losing it and going to the extreme of attacking his boss.  I'm sure most of us have fantasized that shit a few times.  Even after having seen this twenty years ago, I couldn't remember how it ended (but I kept a fondness for the picture thinking it was funny) and I'm glad as I had no idea how this played out.  It's a cynical film and it's a good one with a great cast and a stupendously good performance from Spacey.  He's amazing in this.  The Trimark DVD I soon-to-be-had presents the film in non-anamorphic widescreen and the only extras are four trailers (including one for this film) in fullscreen.  I'm hoping the special edition has a print that's anamorphic.  It does have a lot of extras and I'm keen to hear some stories from Huang about his experiences that lead to making this picture.

Night Watch (2004)

Original title: Nochnoy Dozor

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Writers: Timur Bekmambetov, Laeta Kalogridis, Sergey Lukyanenko

Composer: Yuriy Poteenko

Starring: Konstantin Khabenskiy, Vladimir Menshov, Valeriy Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina, Yuriy Kutsenko, Aleksey Chadov

More info: IMDb

Tagline: All That Stands Between Light And Darkness Is The Night Watch.

Plot: A fantasy-thriller set in present-day Moscow where the respective forces that control daytime and nighttime do battle.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nope.

Man, I was so excited to finally watch this.  That could have contributed to the problem.  It's not every day that a Russian horror film makes its way over to the States.  I've had the DVD of this one and the sequel DAY WATCH (2006) for years.  Anyway, it's got a good story with some good effects, acting and whatnot but it's too long and there's too much going on.  Maybe it takes a second viewing to really appreciate it.  Beats me but the first time through it felt like it needed to be scaled back a little.  When you boil the plot down to its basic elements it's really good.  I dug the Vortex thing and the kid's relationship to the story's big picture (and especially his fate at the end of the picture) but there were lots of little sidesteps the characters make that slow it down and drag it out.  Still, I liked the film enough but just shy of wanting to watch the sequel (there was a planned third film but it has yet to be made).  Say, that reminds me, I don't watch enough Russian cinema.  I've been meaning to tackle SOLARIS (1972) for years.  I need to buckle myself into the couch armed with some ice cold Red Bulls and take that sumbitch in one sitting.  The 20th Century Fox DVD of NIGHT WATCH has the film (in Russian and English dubs) in anamorphic widescreen along with some extras including an extended ending, a commentary by the director, four trailers and a subtitled commentary by novelist Sergey Lukyanenko.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Midnight in Savannah (1997)

Director: ???

Writer: ???

Composer: 615 Music Productions, Inc.

Starring: Peter Haskell, John Berendt, Lady Chablis, Emma Kelly, Brett Moses

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Documents the true story of the infamous murder case that rocked the high-society of Savannah, Georgia, and became the backdrop for the best-selling book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt. Jim William, a self-made millionaire antique dealer and noted party-giver, was convicted of shooting and killing a 21-year-old street hustler named Danny Hansford, with whom he had a homosexual relationship. The murder took place in William's mansion, Mercer House, in the heart of Savannah. William claimed he fired in self defense and, after an appeal and a mistrial, was acquitted after a fourth trial. Within weeks of the acquittal, he was found dead at home, in the room where the shooting had taken place.

My rating:  7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah.

This feature length documentary (clocking in at about an hour and forty minutes) focuses on the Georgia town of Savannah, the locals and the goings on with Jim Williams, the focus of the book and film, MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF EVIL (1997).  It's a great, well-rounded view of what it's like to live there and the people and things you're likely to encounter.  You might be disappointed if you watch this only for the details of the crime and trial but you shouldn't be.  Getting a good look at Williams's surroundings and the circumstances help fill out the whole picture.  It's a great companion piece to the Clint Eastwood movie (which I just finished watching earlier today).  I'd say watch the film first and then the documentary but it probably doesn't matter much.  The film is a lot closer to the truth than I thought.  Good stuff, this one.   Now I REALLY want to visit Savannah.

Bad Boys (1983)

Director: Rick Rosenthal

Writer: Richard Di Lello

Composer: Bill Conti

Starring: Sean Penn, Reni Santoni, Jim Moody, Eric Gurry, Esai Morales, Ally Sheedy, Clancy Brown, Robert Lee Rush, John Zenda, Alan Ruck

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Life Has Pushed Him Into A Corner... And He's Comin' Out Fighting.

Plot:  Chicago crime kid Mick O'Brien has been sent to a juvenile prison for vehicular manslaughter. Most unfortunately, the person he kills is the kid brother of his nemesis Paco Moreno, who vows revenge by raping Mick's girlfriend. Paco is caught and sent to the same prison where he re-works his revenge plan, and Mick has no choice but to defend himself.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

That juvi prison is a fucked up place.  No, thanks.  I remember when this came out the buzz was all about Sean Penn's performance.  It was his first feature in a starring role.  He does a really good job as does the rest of the cast.  I should heap some praise onto director Rosenthal for creating a tense atmosphere inside the jail.  It also helped that there's a sparse score, especially in some of the harsher moments.  The actions of the actors speak for themselves.  The ending wasn't a surprise but the way it was handled was.  Very nice.  The Lionsgate DVD has a good anamorphic widescreen print but the only extras you get are a trailer (anamoprhic widescreen) and a commentary with Rosenthal. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Big Black Comedy Show, Vol. 2 (2005)

Director: Dale S. Lewis

Starring: Mo'Nique, Rod Man, Sexy Mario, Ralphie May, Vince Morris, Jay Phillips

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Comedian/actress Mo'Nique returns to host this all-star lineup which includes Sexy Mario, Rodman, Vince Morris, and Ralphie May. Once again her Co-host is the one and only Rodney Perry.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Funny.  All of them.  And they get progressively funnier ending with Ralphie May.  Vince Morris' act was all about pointing out the ridiculousness of black ignorance but he made it funny.  Rodman has a strange delivery.  He's not a speed talker but he doesn't break at all.  He's like a musician with his breathing.  At first I wasn't laughing.  That's because I didn't think he was funny.  But after a couple of minutes his delivery (and jokes) settled in and I was laughing.  I'm thoroughly impressed with this DVD.  So many of these multi-comic videos are severely lacking in the funny.  This one brings it.  And it's an hour and a half so each of the four comics (plus Mo'Nique gets a few as the host) gets a good deal of time to do their thing.  The Key DVD presents the show in anamorphic widescreen with no extras.

Brotherhood of Death (1976)

Director:  Bill Berry

Writers:  Bill Berry, Ronald Goldman\

Composer: ?

Starring:  Roy Jefferson, Le Tari, Haskell V. Anderson III, Mike Thomas, Michael Hodge, Ron David, Rick Ellis, Brian Donahue, Ed Heath, Mike Bass, Bryan Clark, Kandy Hooker, Henry Pankey

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Watch the brothers stick it to the Klan!

Plot:  A group of black Vietnam vets go up against the Ku Klux Klan.

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes, but only if I get that sweet looking widescreen Blu-ray.

The only print I had access to was fullscreen but I'm willing to bet that if I saw the excellent widescreen print from the pricey Blu-ray I'd probably dig it a little more.  I guess it's a testament to the film that even with a shitty VHS looking copy, it holds up as a fun Blaxploitation action/revenge flick.  The IMDb trivia says that the lead actors were NFL players hired because they would do it on the cheap.  I cut non-actors a lot of slack whenever they're even remotely good and these guys are.  They're fun and they've got charisma (mostly).  I wouldn't dare cast them in Hamlet but this is a low budget B-picture from the 70s, riding a wave of black-themed action drive-in pictures and it totally succeeds.  And the white bad guys?  Fucking nasty fuckers.  Some of them are a little too good at being hateful.  There's a good deal of action and lots of folks doing some really bad things to each other but what I took away most from it was the sincerity from the actors and presumably the folks you didn't see who made this possible.  If this had a multi-million dollar budget I'd trash the shit out of it but, considering where it came from, it's pretty good.  I dug it.  I have it on an Anchor Bay double feature DVD with Fred Williamson's ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO (1982).  I'm watching that one now as I write this.  This film has no extras unlike the other picture.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Writers: John Berendt, John Lee Hancock

Composer: Lennie Niehaus

Starring: John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, Jack Thompson, Irma P. Hall, Jude Law, Alison Eastwood, Paul Hipp, Lady Chablis, Dorothy Loudon, Anne Haney, Kim Hunter, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Herd, Leon Rippy, Bob Gunton

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Welcome to Savannah, Georgia. A City Of Hot Nights And Cold Blooded Murder.

Plot:  A visiting city reporter's assignment suddenly revolves around the murder trial of a local millionaire, whom he befriends.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

It's been nearly twenty years since I last saw this that I've completely forgotten most of it.  That's how it needs to be the next time I watch it.  Otherwise, the magic of the thriller aspect is gone.  The performances are great, especially from the non-actors that often played their real-life selves.  It's uncanny how much Spacey looks like the real Jim Williams.  Look it up.  There's an interesting story (based in truth, although the movie takes a few liberties) with interesting characters set in an interesting old world city, Savannah, Georgia.  The Voodoo shit is ridiculous but apparently Williams bought into it.  This also plays into the supernatural ending which, while being a lot more poetic and story-like, feels contrived for the sake of showmanship.  I'd rather things just continued on.  It's still a fun picture with some great performances.  I've always wanted to visit Savannah, if for no other reason than to walk through a place that feels stuck in time.  The Warner Bros. DVD has the film in anamorphic widescreen.  The extras are several small (most under a minute) snippets of interviews with the real people involved in the story the film is based on; it's just a pain in the butt to have to click on different map locations to see them.  Why there isn't a 'play all' feature is beyond me.  I won't be watching those again.

U.S. Marshals (1998)

Director: Stuart Baird

Writers: Roy Huggins, John Pogue

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes, Robert Downey Jr., Joe Pantoliano, Daniel Roebuck, Tom Wood, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Irene Jacob, Kate Nelligan, Patrick Malahide, Rick Snyder

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  The cop who won't stop is back. But this time he's chasing down a lot more than a fugitive.

Plot:  US Marshal Samuel Gerard (Jones) and his team of Marshals are assigned to track down Sheridan (Snipes), a murderer and robber.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

No a bad film.  It succeeds due in large part to the great cast and it's a blast spending more time with the characters we got to love in THE FUGITIVE (1993).  While there's nothing all that special about the movie, the cast does a fine job, Goldmsith's got a pulse-pounding score, the action is good (and there's a lot of it) and the pacing is pretty damn brisk.  And there's some nice deception going on that pays off a bit in the end.  It's been ages since I saw THE FUGITIVE and I definitely like it better than this follow-up (thanks to Jones and Ford) but for a cash grab, this is worth a watch and it was handled much better than you'd think even though this plot has long since been a cliche that's been done to pieces in the past twenty years.  But if it's good, it's good and who gives a rat's ass, right?   The Warner Bros. DVD has a good anamorphic widescreen image and it's got a crapload of extras. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Django Strikes Again (1987)

Original title: Django 2 - Il Grande Ritorno

Director: Nello Rossati

Writers: Franco Reggiani, Nello Rossati

Composer: Gianfranco Plenizio

Starring: Franco Nero, Christopher Connelly, Licinia Lentini, William Berger, Roberto Posse, Alessandro Di Chino, Rodrigo Obregon, Micky, Bill Moore, Consuelo Reina, Donald Pleasence

More info: IMDb

Plot: Former gunfighter Django has become a monk and abandoned his violent former ways. His daughter is kidnapped by rogue Hungarian soldiers using slave labor to run a silver mine. Django casts off his habit and digs up his machine gun to practise a little liberation theology.

My rating:  6/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

You know I loves me some Spaghetti Westerns and they don't get much better than the ones that Franco Nero in them.  This guy's great.  Really.  While there were many films in the late 60s and early 70s that had Django in the title (and many of those didn't even have a character named Django!), they were all in name only and had no relation to the Nero's breakout hit DJANGO (1966).  This film is the only true sequel and it's great having Nero back for more killin'.  And the best parts of the movie are when he's off the chain killin' folks left and right using everything at his disposal.  The story is fine.  The acting is fine.  The music is largely unmemorable and doesn't have that classic Spaghetti Western feel.  The biggest drawback is look of the picture.  None of the exterior shots look like they had clear skies.  It's either cloudy with a strong chance of rain or it's hazy.  Part of that has to do with the lenses.  Regardless, it looks dreary and that brings the picture down a lot and it softens the edges far too much.  I don't like being mired in dreary for 90 minutes.  The Anchor Bay DVD (that comes with DJANGO (1966)) is in anamorphic widescreen with the trailer and a 3 minute interview with Nero.  I don't know how they couldn't spend more than 3 minutes with the guy talking about his movie.  It takes a hell of a lot more time just to set up the camera and light the room.  Ask a shitload of questions and keep him talking for a good 20 minutes.  Geez.  Still, thank you AB for giving us what you did.  Maybe Nero pulled a gun on the camera guy and told them all to get the hell out of his house, he's got a gaggle of bitches in the next room waiting to usurp his essence.  They should have had a title card explaining that.

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Director: Tim Burton

Writers: Washington Irving, Kevin Yagher, Andrew Kevin Walker

Composer: Danny Elfman

Starring:  Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Walken, Marc Pickering, Lisa Marie, Steven Waddington, Claire Skinner, Christopher Lee, Martin Landau

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Who will it come for next?!

Plot:  Ichabod Crane is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the decapitations of 3 people with the culprit being the legendary apparition, the Headless Horseman.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I haven't seen this since the theater and I think I like it more now than then.  The atmosphere is great.  Really fantastic.  It's got that 60s Hammer Horror vibe and it's thick.  The cast is wonderful.  Even Depp is fun but to be fair, this was a little before he went off the charts with one god damned quirky character after another and now he's just annoying.  But this was during a happier time.  It's probably more thriller than horror but the atmosphere really makes the film.  The story was changed a bit from the original classic tale.  I'm almost OK with it.  I could do without all of Crane's (Depp) over the top gadgets.  It was odd when watching this as it felt like it was rated 'R', which it was.  And I think this might be Burton's only 'R' film, too.  It's been since the 70s when I saw the Disney cartoon of this; something I need to remedy soon.  Now I remember that scaring the bejesus out of me when I was but a small boy.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

La Mansion de la Niebla (1972)

AKA: The Murder Mansion, Maniac Mansion

Director: Francisco Lara Polop

Writers: Luis G. de Blain, Antonio Troiso

Composer: Marcello Giombini

Starring: Ida Galli, Analia Gade, Lisa Leonardi, Andreas Resino, Franco Fantasia, Alberto Dalbes, Yelena Samarina, George Rigaud, Ingrid Garbo

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  What Horror Awaits in the Tomb of the Living Dead?

Plot: A couple, lost in thick fog, take refuge in an old mansion next to a cemetery. Strange things start to happen.

My rating:  5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I don't know what specifically drew me to watch this less-than-exciting/memorable horror movie.  It must've been that kick ass movie poster.  It's actually a good looking movie.  I watched a good quality anamorphic widescreen print dubbed in English under the original title.  There's a lot of dialogue in this horror/thriller so if you're looking for a bloody romp with boobs you'll be disappointed.  My biggest issue with it is that I was bored just minutes into it.  Scenes drone on for too long, people take forever to say things that would probably a lot faster in the real world, stuff like that.  Then by the time you get to the end, one of the bad guys gives some lengthy exposition to the other one about everything that he a kids TV show.  What happens in the remaining minutes isn't shocking but it was welcome.  The music is fine.  I really dug the art direction and mansion location.  For what good is in this picture, it's hampered by a slow pace and unnecessarily bland execution.  We Americans aren't the only ones capable of shitty movies.  The Spaniards and Italians had their fair share, too.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)

Original title: Chinjeolhan Geumjassi

Director: Chan-Wook Park

Writers: Chan-Wook Park, Seo-Gyeong Jeong

Composer: Seung-Hyun Choi

Starring: Yeong-ae Lee, Min-Sik Choi, Shi-Hoo Kim, Yea-Young Kwon, Tony Barry, Anne Cordiner, Su-Hee Go

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Lee Geum-Ja, have mercy on us...

Plot: After a thirteen-year imprisonment for the kidnap and murder of a six-year-old boy, Guem-Ja Lee seeks vengeance on the man truly responsible for the boy's death. With the help of fellow inmates and reunited with her daughter, she gets closer and closer to her goal.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

This is from the same cat who brought us OLDBOY (2003) and this picture has the same sensibility in that it only starts to make sense once you know what the fuck happened in the first place.  But that doesn't happen until the final half hour which is also when shit gets real and it gets real good.  That first hour can be a bit of a slog to get through.  Park jumps around with time and that threw me off a couple of times.  I watched this with friends and between the three of us, we were able to keep track of what was going on as far as the timeline was concerned.  This is a film that gives you a good second viewing (I would think) but I'll probably never know because if I should watch it again, I'll have forgotten everything about it anyway.  My memory will certainly fail me if I wait more than a few months to re-visit this (and that's way too soon to watch it again).  Don't let the slow burn fool you.  It's a well-made film and it's got a similar uneasy feeling like in the early OLDBOY.  It's effective but not as OMFG as the reveal in OLDBOY.  The Tartan DVD sports a great looking anamorphic widescreen print with a lot of extras including THREE commentaries (among other things like trailers, featurettes and interviews).

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

Director: Sofia Coppola

Writers: Jeffrey Eugenides, Sofia Coppola

Composer: Air

Starring: James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, Michael Pare, Scott Glenn, Danny DeVito, A.J. Cook, Hanna Hall, Leslie Hayman, Chelse Swain, Anthony DeSimone, Lee Kagen, Robert Schwartzman, Hayden Christensen, Giovanni Ribisi

More info: IMDb


Plot: A group of male friends become obsessed with five mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

There have been so many movies on my watch list for decades that it's ridiculous.  I've been hearing good things about this one since it came out.  And now I've seen it.  The dream like quality of the film is very soothing despite the dreary subject matter.  It's an impressive debut for writer/director Sofia Coppola.  I'm sure growing up the daughter of Francis gave her years of experience most people would sacrifice body parts for.  Lucky gal.  Hell, Francis might be a raging asshole to his kids for all I know.  If the young cast keeps you older folks from seeing this (a little like it did me for a while), the kids are good.  But you've also got so many other great actors in the cast that it's worth it just to see them suit up for a movie anyway.  Great score.  And how about that holy shit ending?  Nice.  The Paramount DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen and the extras you get are a behind the scenes doc (23 minutes), the theatrical trailer (non-anamorphic wide) and the Air music video for Playground Love.

The Tenant (1976)

Original title: Le Locataire

Director: Roman Polanski

Writers: Roland Topor, Gerard Brach, Roman Polanski

Composer:  Philippe Sarde

Starring:  Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, Bernard Fresson, Lila Kedrova, Claude Pieplu, Rufus, Shelley Winters

More info: IMDb

Tagline: No one does it to you like Roman Polanski.

Plot:  A bureaucrat rents a Paris apartment where he finds himself drawn into a rabbit hole of dangerous paranoia.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Eventually, but {note to future self} I'll review the theory about what's probably going on first.


I'll admit it.  I didn't get it.  At all.  I wanted to so badly but something was holding me back as if one piece of the puzzle were missing and it was the most important piece that would allow me to see the image in its entirety.  The performances were fine as were all of the other aspects of the picture but it didn't gel for me.  I've been meaning to see this movie for thirty years so I've had this, albeit minor, anticipation to see it.  It's really cryptic and I figured there must be clues here somewhere that will tell me what I need to know.  However, I was so dismayed and somewhat disappointed at the end (because I was totally in the dark as to what I just saw) that I had no interest in watching it a second time to, hopefully, figure it out.  Instead I dialed up Uncle Internet and he told me everything I need to know.  Here's where the spoilers come in.  I read A LOT of theories as to what happened.  The one that made the most sense has Trelkovsky (Polanski) having almost murdered the woman who fell to her near death out of the apartment window.  He rents her apartment and throughout the course of the film, his guilt slowly overtakes him and he becomes that woman, clothes and all.  That makes all the sense in the world, especially with the last scene in the hospital which is a repeat from the beginning of the film, bringing it full circle.  Suddenly the film works and I'm totally on board watching it again but with this knowledge.  Then I can watch for all of the clues and allow myself to enjoy it instead of being confused by it.  Damn that Polanski fella.  The Paramount DVD has a good anamorphic widescreen print with the only extra the anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer.  And how about that trailer?  You'd think it was a horror picture but that's the last thing you get from seeing the movie.  Horrible marketing.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Wilby Conspiracy (1975)

Director: Ralph Nelson

Writers: Rod Amateau, Harold Nebenzal, Peter Driscoll

Composer: Stanley Myers

Starring: Sidney Poitier, Michael Caine, Nicol Williamson, Prunella Gee, Saeed Jaffrey, Persis Khambatta, Rijk de Gooyer, Rutger Hauer, Patrick Allen, Joe De Graft, Archie Duncan, Abdulla Sunado, Helmut Dantine, Peter Pearce

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  In the fight for freedom, you have to break all the rules.

Plot:  Having spent 10 years in prison for nationalist activities, Shack Twala is finally ordered released by the South African Supreme Court but he finds himself almost immediately on the run after a run-in with the police. Assisted by his lawyer Rina Van Niekirk and visiting British engineer Jim Keogh, he heads for Capetown where he hopes to recover a stash of diamonds, meant to finance revolutionary activities, that he had entrusted to a dentist before his incarceration. Along the way, they are followed by Major Horn of the South African State security bureau and it becomes apparent that he has no intention of arresting them until they reach their final destination.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Sure.

Good flick.  The performances are solid, locations, tension, story, and on down the line.  People die and it's not always the bad ones.  It's a cynical film, and rightly so, that shed light on the current state of South Africa and the brutality of it all.  There's a lot of deception going on and at every level, some of which you don't realize until the end.  That's a major plus.  The film spends most of the time with Poitier and Caine on the run until they have to retrieve a large stash of diamonds.  Then the picture goes into heist mode and then back to being on the lam, all the while being pursued, and continuously intercepted, by Major Horn (nastily and brutally played by Nicol Williamson).  Rutger Hauer shows up in one of his earliest roles, his first non-Dutch picture.  There's an awful lot to like in this film.  It's engaging from the start and it rarely lets up.  The MGM DVD delivers it in non-anamorphic widescreen with the sole extra, the fullscreen trailer.  You can pick it up on Amazon for $4 and free shipping.  It's definitely worth it.

Lord of War (2005)

Director: Andrew Niccol

Writer: Andrew Niccol

Composer: Antonio Pinto

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Bridget Moynahan, Jared Leto, Shake Tukhmanyan, Jean-Pierre Nshanian, Ian Holm, Donald Sutherland, Ethan Hawke, Sammi Rotibi, Eamonn Walker

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The first and most important rule of gun-running is: never get shot with your own merchandise.

Plot: An arms dealer confronts the morality of his work as he is being chased by an Interpol agent.

My rating:8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I just watched it for the first time since its theatrical run ten years ago and it's still just as good.  Cage is great and writer/director Niccol crafted a fine picture that details the life of one of the world's top gun runners.  There are moments of tension, comedy, odd romance, action and political intrigue.  It's very well paced and Cage makes for a very engaging and entertaining lead.  The only thing that bugs me is the opening and closing scenes with Cage standing amidst the bullets.  In the opening he takes a deliberate pause to take a drag off his cigarette and in the closing bit he takes a deliberate pause to look to the side.  In both instances it's incredibly forced as if by a teenager learning the ropes in a high school play.  Someday I'll have to dig into the commentary to see if that's explained.  It's just damn odd that Cage pauses like that as if to hit certain beats with his monologue to the audience. The Lionsgate 2-Disc Special Edition DVD has a bunch of extras.  Besides a commentary by Niccol, a making of featurette (20 minutes), a featurette on arms dealing (15 minutes), 7 deleted scenes and 6 non-anamorphic widescreen trailers (many of which viewers of this film won't be interested in).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Life Stinks (1991)

Director: Mel Brooks

Writers: Mel Brooks, Ron Clark, Rudy De Luca, Steve Haberman

Composer: John Morris

Starring: Mel Brooks, Lesley Ann Warren, Jeffrey Tambor, Stuart Pankin, Howard Morris, Rudy De Luca, Teddy Wilson, Michael Ensign, Matthew Faison, Billy Barty

More info: IMDb

Tagline: From Fortune 500 ... to fortune's fool.

Plot:  A filthy rich businessman bets a corporate rival that he can live on the streets of L.A. without the comforts of home or money, which proves to be tougher than he thought.

My rating:  7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah, but in another twenty years.

It's been documented plenty on this site my love for Mel Brooks.  I last saw this one in the theater 25 years ago (ugh, I'm so old) and I hated it.  I didn't think it was funny then and I'm not even sure I laughed once.  But just now, I laughed a lot.   It's the first film he directed since THE TWELVE CHAIRS (1970) that wasn't a parody.  I don't know what changed in me in the past 25 years for me to really dig this picture but I had a good time with it.  The slap fight between Mel and Rudy De Luca (who also co-wrote the picture) is friggin' hilarious.  On one of Mel's slaps, Rudy is pushed sideways and bounces right back off of a chain link fence.  Classic!  The actors do a great job.  Lesley Ann Warren is hilarious, you can't help but love Mel, Howard Morris brings the heart in Sailor and Teddy Wilson (who played Fumes) had me in stitches at the end.  If you're expecting another one of Mel's top drawer parody films, you'll be disappointed at the lack of laughs per minute but there's still a lot of funny (and fun) in this social commentary.  Life might stink sometimes but, for me, this movie doesn't (anymore).  This is likely to be Mel's most overlooked film and there's no reason why it shouldn't be.  It's made for an older audience and it definitely has a place in his impressive catalog.  The MGM DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen.  For extras you get a 15 minute doc with interviews from the three writers - Mel, Rudy & Steve (which is a lot of fun), a commentary with these three cats and the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen).

Posse (1993)

Director: Mario Van Peebles

Writers: Sy Richardson, Dario Scardapane

Composer: Michel Colombier

Starring: Mario Van Peebles, Stephen Baldwin, Charles Lane, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, Big Daddy Kane, Billy Zane, Blair Underwood, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Tone Loc, Pam Grier, Vesta Williams, Isaac Hayes, Richard Jordan, Paul Bartel, Stephen J. Cannell, Nipsey Russell, Woody Strode, Aaron Neville

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Untold Story of the Wild West

Plot: A group of mostly black infantrymen return from the Spanish-American War with a cache of gold. They travel to the West where their leader searches for the men who lynched his father.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

What a letdown this was.  When I watch a Western, I'm just looking to be entertained.  If it's a message film, that's fine, too, but don't bore me.  Please.  That's all I ask.  This looked like it was going to be a fun picture about black cowboys rightin' wrongs, killin' folks and whoopin' it up in the Old West.  It can't be an easy task to make a big, outdoor period piece like this.  I can appreciate the tremendous amount of work that goes into a production of this sort.  But the movie felt like one big vanity piece for Peebles.  In front of the camera he stands out as the one main guy who's missing a few ounces of charisma.  He acts like he's a tough guy that's too cool for school.  To contrast that there's an entire cast of colorful characters surrounding him that make him come across as even more isolated and more like a guy with his head too far up his own ass.  The supporting cast is fun and there are an awful lot of great faces in the bunch.  When's the last time you saw Nipsey Russell in a movie?  Exactly.  Love that guy.  Behind the camera, Peebles often gets flashy and it feels like an actor directing and doing too much instead of striving to make a solid picture.  I've seen that done before and the movies suffer all around for it.  It's a shame, really, because there was the potential to produce a fun piece of action cinema.  There are too many little annoyances that keep this from being good enough recommend.  Just before the credits roll there are a couple of title cards that tell us about the difficulties of blacks back then which is weird.  It's like it was tacked on at the last moment as if to give more weight and importance to the silly movie we just saw.  Odd.  The MGM DVD presents the film with a non-anamorphic widescreen print and a fullscreen theatrical trailer as the sole extra.  It's a poor presentation for a film that should've been better than what we got.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spartan (2004)

Director: David Mamet

Writer: David Mamet

Composer: Mark Isham

Starring: Val Kilmer, Tia Texada, Derek Luke, Clark Gregg, William H. Macy, Ed O'Neill, Mark Pellegrino, Kristen Bell, David Paymer

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  She's missing.

Plot: A "lone wolf" U.S. government secret agent is assigned the task of rescuing the kidnapped daughter of a high ranking government figure, only to discover along the way a larger, more sinister plot.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Great flick.  Halfway through something happens that changes the direction of the story and it raises the stakes for Scott (Kilmer).  By that time I'd already given myself to the story and was anxiously awaiting the rest of the journey.  Mamet crafted a fine film that is a world of mystery.  Who does Scott work for?  Is it the military or the CIA or an independent organization?  How organized can these cats be?  Are they controlling everything?  Are the opening credits ever going to happen?  The movie has an organic feel.  It just begins and grows as if we're needle-dropped into it and we're left to figure some things out on our own.  I loved that aspect.  Kilmer is really good in this.  It's also cool that people die and those who do the killing do it without question or recourse.  It's their job and they do what they're told.  I can appreciate efficiency.  That game changing moment in the middle was great, too, because we've spent a good amount of time following a job and suddenly it ends only to find that there's more to it than we suspected.  A lot of filmmakers would've fucked this part up.  The Warner Bros. DVD has the film in anamorphic widescreen and the only extras are the trailer (in a-wide) and a commentary track with Kilmer.

The Lords of Flatbush (1974)

Directors: Martin Davidson, Stephen Verona

Writers: Stephen Verona, Gayle Gleckler, Martin Davidson

Composer: Joseph Brooks

Starring: Perry King, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler, Paul Mace, Susan Blakely, Maria Smith, Renee Paris, Paul Jabara, Bruce Reed, Frank Stiefel

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  When was the last time someone gave you a hickey?

Plot:  It's 1958 in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. High school friends David 'Chico' Tyrell, Stanley Rosiello, Butchey Weinstein and Wimpy Murgalo comprise a gang called the Lords. They are motorcycle driving, smoking, wisecracking, leather jacket and slicked back hair wearing troublemakers who often use their fists to solve the problems in their lives. One problem that Stanley is facing is that he and his girlfriend Frannie Malincanico need to get married. Stanley and Frannie's respective views of marriage are from their immature teen-aged perspectives. Also facing girl problems is Chico, who has a casual relationship with Frannie's best friend, Annie Yuckamanelli. That changes when WASP Jane Bradshaw transfers into their school. Chico, with a little help from his friends, does whatever he can to impress Jane, not always with success.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

For a movie that's been on my radar for thirty plus years, it's a real letdown when the picture doesn't deliver.  The biggest kick I got out of it was seeing Stallone, Winkler and King in their much younger days.  There's the odd funny moment but it's mostly drama and it's more of a series of little moments that don't really tell a narrative as much as just give you a sense of what these fellas are about.  A lot of the dialogue feels improvised, too.  All of this together adds up to moments that work because of this and some that don't.  And when it's not good it comes across as amateurish.  Ultimately, I felt about middle of the road on this.  I'm glad I saw it but then I have no desire to see it again.   The Columbia DVD sports an anamorphic widescreen print, the fullscreen trailer for this picture and for LA BAMBA and a non-anamorphic widescreen trailer for BUGSY.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Boss (2016)

Director: Ben Falcone

Writers Melissa McCarthy, Steve Mallory, Ben Falcone

Composer: Christopher Lennertz

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage, Ella Anderson, Lyler Labine, Kathy Bates, Cecily Strong, Mary Sohn, Kristen Schaal, Eva Peterson, Timothy SimonsCedric Yarbrough

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Watch your assets

Plot: A titan of industry is sent to prison after she's caught insider trading. When she emerges ready to rebrand herself as America's latest sweetheart, not everyone she screwed over is so quick to forgive and forget.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I honestly don't get the hate for Melissa McCarthy.  I love her snarky, rude, straight forward characters.  I've only seen two of her starring pictures, THE HEAT (2013) and SPY (2015), and I thoroughly enjoyed both of them and laughed my ass off.  The first hour of THE BOSS is fucking hilarious.  There were loads of laugh out loud bits that had me tearing up.  The big street fight (probably the best part of the trailer) is a prime example.  I literally had tears in my eyes I was laughing so hard.  It's the best girl fight I've ever seen.  The closeline, vagina punch, helicopter spin...and all in slow motion.  Fucking classic.  It's one of those scenes that's literally worth watching the movie just for that.  The cast is fantastic.  Really.  I was surprised by McCarthy's character.  I thought (based on nothing except that would be the typical Hollywood character for her type) that she was going to be a crass bitch and unlikable except for her acidic insults but she's actually a very good person.  Her motivations get in the way and sometimes hurt people but she's not the total asshole I expected.

I would easily give the first hour an 8 out of 10 but the problem is in the last half hour.  It lacks the quantity and quality of funny the picture had built up to and then it kind of falls.  I'm not saying that when the drama steps in that it's not warranted, it is, but it's what happens after that with the plan to get the company back.  That's where it feels like typical goofy comedy stuff.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it but it just wasn't nearly as funny as most of the stuff that came before.  It's a shame that the film didn't finish as strongly as the rest of it.  Still, it's very funny but how much you like it is largely going to depend on how much you like McCarthy or not.  And that's too bad because this picture has a lot of great gags and a wonderful cast of talented people. 

Son of the Pink Panther (1993)

Director: Blake Edwards

Writers: Blake Edwards, Madeline Sunshine, Steven Sunshine

Composer: Henry Mancini

Starring: Roberto Benigni, Herbert Lom, Claudia Cardinale, Shabana Azmi, Debrah Farentino, Jennifer Edwards, Robert Davi, Mark Schneider, Mike Starr,  Kenny Spalding, Anton Rodgers, Burt Kwouk, Graham Stark, Liz Smith, Nicoletta Braschi

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Funny has a color all its own.

Plot:  Charles Dreyfus encounters Jacques Gambrelli, who reminds him painfully of Inspector Clouseau, the man who drove him insane. With good reason: Gambrelli is Clouseau's son.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The Pink Panther movies are all over the place from bad to great.  This one was new to me.  One of the reasons I ever wanted to see it was because of Benigni.  I love that guy.  If anyone can pull off being the goofy son of Peter Sellers/Clouseau, it's him.  Even better was finding out he had a twin sister at the end played by Benigni's wife, Nicoletta Braschi.  She's hilarious, too.  Getting the gang back together with Lom, Cardinale, Kwouk, Stark and Smith (did I miss anybody?) sure helped a lot.  And there were moments where I could tell I was watching a Blake Edwards picture.  Benigni is a master with physical comedy so seeing him in action is always fun.  The gags might not be all that good but he does his best.  The story is OK until the end when it becomes a big action film which feels out of place for a PP flick.  There's not much in the way of funny but it's offset by the nostalgia of seeing these actors reprise their roles from the franchise.  Every PP flick since Sellers died was a total cash grab and probably shouldn't have happened.  The MGM DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen and the only extra is the theatrical trailer (also A-Wide).  On a strange note, I watched two movies today and they both had character actor Mike Starr in them.

Attack on the Iron Coast (1968)

Director: Paul Wendkos

Writers: Herman Hoffman, John C. Champion

Composer: Gerard Schurmann

Starring: Lloyd Bridges, Andrew Keir, Sue Lloyd, Mark Eden, Maurice Denham, Glyn Owen, Howard Pays, Walter Gotell, John Welsh, George Mikell, Ernest Clark, Dick Haydon

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  They turned a dead ship into a live bomb and sailed it down the throat of the enemy!

Plot:  Lloyd Bridges plays a WWII commando leader who leads a group of soldiers on a suicide mission to destroy a Nazi naval stronghold on the French coast.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This sounded like so many things I love...1960s big WWII picture, it's British, it's the good guys against the evil Nazis, Andrew Keir, Walter Gotell, action, no love-y dove-y business getting in the way of the get the picture.  It's not that good and I mean it when I'm probably being generous with the score.  The only thing that kept me from lowering it was that I wasn't bored (but I wasn't excited either).  One thing that stands out is Lloyd Bridges' questionable acting chops.  Major Wilson (Bridges) is a trouble and conflicted man, having an earlier mission he created and executed, leaving most of the 500 men involved dead.  If only Bridges could've conveyed that emotion without over doing it...a lot!  He's really bad whenever Wilson is expressing his grief.  It's really laughable.  Fuck it.  I'm lowering the score to a 5/10.  There were some odd directional choices that didn't work like a clearly-filmed-somewhere-else shot of Wilson yelling at his commandos in practice.  It's a series of fake cutaways that looks like it was either tacked on as if Bridges wasn't on set that day and they did some pickup shots.  Then there's the model ships during the big attack at the end.  I'm sure they could've done a better job with that to mask the phoneyness of it all.  I've seen it done in other, better films.  The climax raid is also done at night with very little light so it's difficult to fill your eyes with detail sometimes (and the print I saw was a good one).  Plus I'd swear I saw some of the same shots of the allies landing a few times but with the negative reversed.  It's a bunch of stuff that you wouldn't expect to see in a professional production.   Some of that could be the director's doing.  He's got 114 director credits on IMDb and nearly all of them were TV.  He's used to working with smaller budgets.  Anyway, the MGM DVD has a good anamorphic widescreen print but the only extra is the theatrical trailer (non-anamorphic widescreen).  I don't know who would enjoy this movie.  I'm a sucker for late 60s WWII and I didn't care for it.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Shredder (2003)

Director: Greg Huson

Writers: Craig Donald Carlson, Greg Huson

Composer: Alan Derian

Starring: Scott Weinger, Lindsey McKeon, Juleah Weikel, Billy O'Sullivan, Holly Towne, Brad Hawkins, Peter Riggs, Candace Moon, Ron Varela, Seth Reston, Elliot Olson, Kjersti Cubberley, Drake William Smith, Jessical Veal

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Icy Dead People!

Plot:  At an exclusive, secluded North American ski resort up on Mount Rocky Summit, brutal slashing, severing and beheading on a group of teenagers are taking place and are believed to be the work of a mysterious skier dressed in black.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Cute tagline.  Good score.  The opening cue was really nice.  It's a slasher flick so let's get down to the important stuff.  The kills are a mixed bag.  They saved some dough by keeping some of them tame at the point of impact.  The camcorder kill was fun.  There's a little bit of nudity but there could've been more.  At least it was teased that way.  There's a shower scene in the first few minutes that doesn't reveal anything.  Booooo.  I think that was Lindsey McKeon as Kimberly.  Not that that matters.  Send your disappointment hate letters to her.  The only character I actually liked was Pike (Juleah Weikel).  She was a lot of fun.  Oh, and one more who shows up unexpectedly on a ski lift.  I think that was Candace Moon (as Shelly).  The rest of them were OK.  Maybe if I were rich, 20, hot and dumb I'd like them more.  The ending was fun and I dig the song that starts the closing credits (Ron Sunshine & Full Swing's She Won't Believe).  And I've got to say that the film looks REALLY good for a low budget picture.  The MGM DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen.  The extras are ten minutes of deleted scenes (which are mostly alternate takes) and trailers for three other MGM movies (but not for this one).  A commentary track would have been nice. 

Something's Gotta Give (2003)

Director: Nancy Meyers

Writer: Nancy Meyers

Composer: Hans Zimmer

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Frances McDormand, Amanda Peet, Jon Favreau, Paul Michael Glaser, Rachel Ticotin

More info: IMDb

Plot:  A swinger on the cusp of being a senior citizen with a taste for young women falls in love with an accomplished woman closer to his age.

My rating:  7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

First of all, it must be nice to be filthy rich.  Second, the film should've ended on the bridge in Paris.  I didn't care for what happened after it at all, song and all.  With that out of the way, I really dug it.  It's funny and sweet.  There were also a few turns I didn't expect.  It's great film making to produce a film that straddles the fine line of romantic cliches and keep it nice without feeling the sting of "I've seen this kind of shit a million times...why, oh, why?!?!"  The entire Paris dinner scene was a piece of work, almost one line after another.  Nicholson and Keaton are in top form and holy crap, how about that Keanu Reeves?  He's so good and human.  He should co-star more often.  The first couple of times you see him he's just fantastic, charming and all around great.  Amanda Peet's just all kinds of cute and fun.  Good flick.  I'm sure I'll see it again someday.  I just happened to have seen a lot of the last few movies Nicholson did before retiring (at least it seems like he's done) and I'm impressed with his choices (there is the odd stinker in the batch...I'm looking at you that Adam Sandler movie).  It's nice to see that there are still studio pictures like this being made (albeit rare) with older actors.  It's refreshing. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Ten Commandments (1956)

Director: Cecil B. DeMille

Writers: Dorothy Clarke Wilson, J.H. Ingraham, A.E. Southon, Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse Lasky Jr., Jack Gariss, Fredric M. Frank

Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Starring: Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, John Derek, Cedric Hardwicke, Nina Foch, Martha Scott, Judith Anderson, Vincent Price, John Carradine, Olive Deering, Douglass Dumbrille, Frank DeKova, Henry Wilcoxon, Eduard Franz, Donald Curtis, Lawrence Dobkin, H.B. Warner, Julia Faye, Woody Strode, Mike Connors, Clint Walker, Frank Wilcox

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Greatest Event in Motion Picture History

Plot: The Egyptian Prince, Moses, learns of his true heritage as a Hebrew and his divine mission as the deliverer of his people.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe in another 30 years.

I saw this once before and it was a good thirty years ago.  It would've been either on TV (with commercials) or on VHS.  Either way it was watched on a small TV.  I finally got to see it in a theater with the recent TCM special event showings and it was great to see such a spectacle film on the big screen.  It really makes all the difference in the world.  The three hour and forty minutes took its toll on my butt about three hours in.  Woof.  Initially the acting may feel stagy and pretentious but you get used to it quickly.  I guess there's no avoiding that style when you consider the time period, director, and that it's a biblical period piece.  Heston is great, Brynner is fun and I liked Robinson a lot (he's one of my top favorite actors).  Brynner is playing his puffy chest best but there's a moment when Moses (Heston) comes back to Egypt and confronts Rameses (Brynner) to "Let my people go".  Rameses sits there all unimpressed and incredulous.  His line delivery isn't stately like it is for the everything else, he talks like a regular guy as in, "You're shittin' me, right?".  It's brilliant and it's the most genuine moment in the picture.

There's so much to say but I don't want to spend too much time writing it.  Savvy?  The effects are all over the place from dodgy to amazing which is odd because it won the Oscar for best special effects, beating out the only other film, FORBIDDEN PLANET!?!?!?!  The hell?  Moses coming down off of the mountain after hearing the voice of god the first time sporting a new, bigger hairdo that would make Michael Landon jealous was hilarious, plus that bigger, darker, sharper beard.  They actually did a fabulous job on that Heston makeup until the last transition into flowing white hair and beard which looked phony as crap.  Excellent Elmer Bernstein themes and score.  I was surprised at how little music there was prior to the intermission but they made up for it in the final third.  I never read the bible so I've got no idea how closely this picture adheres to the stories but it is an epic tale with romance, intrigue, action and lots of supernatural goings-on (the latter is nearly all after the intermission).  The supernatural/religious stuff is really hard to swallow as it creates a plethora of plot holes but then I'm watching this as a work of fiction and, as such, it's very entertaining.  Some people I know find it tough to believe that my atheist ass would drop $12 down for a ticket, even after explaining that I watch horror movies without believing in ghosts.  For that twelve bucks, I wanted to be taken on a fantastical, entertaining ride to a place I could never visit to see people I'll never know and despite a sore tuchas, I got exactly that.  It was worth it.

Jungle Holocaust (1977)

Original title: Ultimo Mondo Cannibale

Director: Ruggero Deodato

Writers: Tito Capri, Gianfranco Clerici, Renzo Genta, Giorgio Carlo Rossi

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Can this modern man survive in a Stone Age world?

Plot: An oil prospector escapes from capture by a primitive cannibal tribe in the Philippine rain forest and heads out to locate his missing companion and their plane to return home.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Over the past twenty years I've seen very little of the cannibal genre that the Italians had such a good time with.  After seeing THE GREEN INFERNO (2013) last year in the theater and being very disappointed, I was lucky enough to find a mess of cannibal flicks on DVD on the super, stupid cheap.  I'm slowly getting around to them and I'm having a good time, even with the not-so-good ones.  I expected something different than what this delivered.  It has the prerequisites of A) cannibalism, B) nudity and C) (my favorite) jungle fuckery.   I'm happy.  Kills?  Yeah.  Somewhat on the fucked up side?  Yeah.   Still happy.  It's actually pretty good and the story works well.  What's wilder is that the guy who gets captured and escapes to survive in the jungle is completely naked for most of the picture.  That opens up a whole other level of crazy as now I start to think of how fucked up of a situation that would be and how would I handle it if I were in that position.  It's wild, man.  Plus it makes the film more plausible.  It's not like he's going to find some slacks lying around the cave.  It'd almost be kind of fun if it weren't for everything that lives in the jungle seemingly designed to kill you.  The ending isn't surprising but it doesn't have to.  It's the journey that counts and boy does this fella go through some shit.  The only issue I have is the inclusion of two or three scenes of animals being killed on screen either by humans or each other for the sake of entertainment.  It disgusts me and I have to fast forward through that shit.  I can handle just about anything but that.  That's one downside to this genre in that you'll almost always see it, even if it's re-used footage from another cannibal film (which they did that shit all the time back then).  I noticed that this DVD sells for good dollars on ebay and I'm torn between making a tidy profit or keeping it as I know I'll watch it again in a few years.  White man's burden, Lloyd, white man's burden.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hoffman (1970)

Director: Alvin Rakoff

Writer: ernest Gebler

Composer: Ron Grainer

Starring: Peter Sellers, Sinead Cusack, Ruth Duning, Jeremy Bulloch, David Lodge, Kay Hall, Elizabeth Bayley, Cindy Burrows, Karen Murtagh, Ron Taylor, John Tatum

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A sly tale of blackmail about a beauty and her boss!

Plot: A businessman blackmails his attractive young secretary into spending a weekend with him. Though he's a creep throughout, he gradually emerges as a sympathetic character.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Here's an odd film.  It starts out weird and creepy, then it gets rather sad and it ends up so wrong and fucked up.   IMDb lists this as a comedy and the trailer (which I didn't see until after the film) has it going either way but you figure Sellers is in it so it's probably a comedy.  It's not.  It's an abduction drama at its core.  Hoffman forces this girl (who works for him, btw) to spend four days with her in an effort to woo her.  He's mental.  We find out that he was once married.  That gives Janet (Cusack) a reason to think that is human and is capable of love but it's a mystery to her and us.  Hoffman has issues and he's socially awkward, it seems, when it comes to girls.  He's been in love with her since he met her 18 months earlier and he's taking this opportunity to try to win her over before she marries another man (played by future Boba Fett, Jeremy Bulloch).  He doesn't even kiss her until the final moment in the picture.  Sellers and Cusack are in every single scene and the other actors have very little screen time.  I think this might be a picture that I will like the more I think about it but it's certainly an odd bird and I encourage anyone who watches it for the first time to go into it as a creepy drama.  It has light moments but it's a far more serious film than what I imagined.  The acting all around is solid.  Sellers, especially early on at his most creepy, is brilliant.  It really is some of the best work I've seen him do, dramatically.  The Anchor Bay DVD has a very nice anamorphic widescreen print with the sole extra in an anamorphic widescreen trailer for the film.  I'm liking it more already.