Thursday, June 30, 2016

Flowers of Darkness (1972)

Director: William Templeton

Writer: Don Peterson

Composer: E. Robert Velazco

Starring: Paul Newman, Vernon Hann, Jack Hurst, Sherman N. Kieffer, Charles Siragusa

More info: IDMb

Plot: The life of man is poor and nasty. A few plants give temporary relief: marijuana, alcohol, and opium. After a history of opium, including the 19th-century Opium Wars, we learn of the discovery of heroin; the rest of the film examines heroin trade and addiction in the U.S. Two tons a year enter the U.S., with only 100 pounds interdicted. Most is used in New York City. Interviews with customs officials, prosecutors, medical doctors and junkies provide points of view. The harsh 1956 law and the medically-oriented law of 1966 are contrasted, with the film on the side of treatment and rehabilitation. It ends with advocating reducing use here and finding other cash crops for farmers abroad.

My rating:  6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

In 22 minutes, Paul Newman tells us about the history of the opiates and how the poppy plant gets processed to finally make it to the street and how much this stuff goes for along the way.  Then we hear from heroin addicts.  Next on Newman's Own Drug Tour we get to the law side of the story and what's being done to get these hopheads and dope fiends behind bars.  And we end up seeing what people are doing to get these folks off the drugs.  Paul Newman says we are all potential drug takers (he includes my beloved alcohol in his list of drugs).   Is it worth watching?  It's Paul Newman schooling us on drugs, the history, problems and solutions.  It's an interesting piece of school PSA film history in that you get to see vintage footage of all kinds of things, especially New York City from over forty years ago.  It's not worth much more than a look for curiosity's sake. 

Space Cowboys (2000)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Writers: Ken Kaufman, Howard Klausner

Composer: Lennie Niehaus

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, James Cromwell, Marcia Gay Harden, William Devane, Loren Dean, Courtney B. Vance, Barbara Babcock, Jay Leno, Jon Hamm

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Boys will be boys.

Plot: When a retired engineer is called upon to rescue a failing satellite, he insists that his equally old teammates accompany him into space.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably.

The cast is great and a HUGE reason to watch this picture.  Clint Eastwood is a pro no matter how you slice it and he made yet another enjoyable as hell movie.  It's got lots of laughs and it's a great time at the movies.  I first caught this one in the theater and I remember lots of people making jokes about old guys (just like in the movie) but it's THESE old guys, not the two critics from THE MUPPET SHOW.  Geez.  I'm sure ten or twenty years down the line I'll give this one another watch...when I'm closer to their age in this movie.  Ugh.  But, hey, maybe it'll inspire my AARP ass to get my buddies together and hijack a rocket.  The Warner Bros. DVD sports a nice anamorphic widescreen print with the only extras in a 7 minute conversation with the editor (Joel Cox), the Jay Leno TONIGHT SHOW segment (expanded) from the movie (13 minutes), a featurette on the effects (7 minutes), a behind the scenes featurette (28 minutes) and the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Smallest Show on Earth (1957)

AKA: Big Time Operators

Director: Basil Dearden

Writers: William Rose, John Eldridge

Composer: William Alwyn

Starring: Virginia McKenna, Bill Travesr, Margaret Rutherford, Peter Sellers, Bernard Miles, Francis De Wolff, Leslie Phillips, June Cunningham, Sidney James, George Cross, George Cormack, Stringer Davis, Michael Corcoran

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  The Funniest Show on Earth!

Plot: A young couple inherits a debt-ridden old movie theater, appropriately nicknamed "The Flea Pit," and the three eccentric senior citizens who work there.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah.

British comedies of this era aren't knee-slappers.  Well, mostly.  I can't think of any but I'm sure I've come across some that had me laughing out loud.  Anyway, this one is cute, quaint, harmless and amusing.  The performances are good, the music, story, cinematography and so on.  I really liked the setting of an old movie house.  It looks well worn and it's the kind of place I'd like to spend my remaining years.  Sure, it's old, worn and broken down but it has a charm about it that feels like an old, comfortable sofa, the kind the wife wants you to get rid of and get that upper class perrywinkle blue one that looks too regal to sit in.  Only then do you realize that all she needs to bring her senses around is to watch this movie and let her soak in why that old couch means so much to you.  But then she watches it and still doesn't get it and insists on your helping her drag it to the curb.  That doesn't sit well with you so you tell her you'll call someone over to help but it's your attorney and he shows up at the door not to help but to serve her with divorce papers.  Who's got the last laugh now?  Yeah, that's right, it's a happy ending as you slink back into that comfy couch and take a well-earned nap.  Oh, the Peter Sellers Collection DVD from Anchor Bay has a great looking anamorphic widescreen print with zero extras.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Swordfish (2001)

Director: Dominic Sena

Writer: Skip Woods

Composers: Christopher Young, Paul Oakenfold

Starring: John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Sam Shepard, Vinnie Jones, Drea de Matteo, Rudolf Martin

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Log on. Hack in. Go anywhere. Steal everything.

Plot: When the DEA shut down its dummy corporation operation codenamed SWORDFISH in 1986, they had generated $400 million which they let sit around; fifteen years of compound interest has swelled it to $9.5 billion. A covert counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell, headed by the duplicitious and suave Gabriel Shear, wants the money to help finance their raise-the-stakes vengeance war against international terrorism, but it's all locked away behind super-encryption. He brings in convicted hacker Stanley Jobson, who only wants to see his daughter Holly again but can't afford the legal fees, to slice into the government mainframes and get the money.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It was OK when I saw it fifteen years ago (and then it was to see what the hubbub was about with Halley Berry baring her was nice) and it's surprisingly better now.  At least it's entertaining albeit over the top.  Travolta is in full on having-fun-Travolta-bad-guy mode and that helps.  Nothing dates a movie like technology and the computer hacking is utter bullshit but you have to take it like it's a dumb Hollywood movie.  The heist action is fun.  It's no classic but it is fun to a degree. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

Original title: Apocalypse Domani

Director: Antonio Margheriti

Writers: Antonio Margheriti, Dardano Sacchetti

Composer: Alexander Blonksteiner

Starring: John Saxon, Elizabeth Turner, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Cinzia De Carolis, Tony King, Wallace Wilkinson, Ramiro Oliveros, John Geroson, May Heatherly, Ronnie Sanders

More info: IMDb

Tagline: An American City Terrorized by Crazed Flesh-Eating Killers ... An Unbelievable Nightmare!

Plot: Giovanni Lambardo Radice and John Saxon are Vietman vets that bring back contagious virus that turn people into cannibals when bitten.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

See!  Vietnam flashbacks!  See!  A 15 minute shootout at an indoor flea market!  See!  Not much in the way of cannibal action or cannibals in general.  For about the first hour I was getting a little cheesed because I popped this in looking for some cannibal action and there's hardly anything like that.  The title doesn't lie.  It's got an appropriately bleak ending and everything that happens before is almost futile.  The title doesn't lie so I guess it was my brain filling in all kinds of possibilities of what this would be.  I didn't see the trailer until after the film.  If you go into it looking for a horror thriller that's more like a zombie apocalypse then you're more likely to enjoy it from the beginning.  Once I realized that that was what it was (with a half hour to go) I started to dig it more.  Saxon does a fine job in the lead and there are some fun scenes (like the biker chase and subsequent flea market shootout) but it's not the kind of picture I can see anyone revisiting much or at all.  If you digs on some Italian horror/exploitation then this is a must see but you won't exactly be telling your friends about it.  The score has some nice moments.  The Studio Canal/Image DVD (from their EuroShock Collection) has a great anamorphic widescreen print.  They've lined up some great extras.  You get a 55 minute making of documentary, a 6 minute tour of the filming locations, the European theatrical trailer and Japanese teaser trailer, poster and still galleries, an alternate U.S. opening sequence and a text treatment on the film's censorship issues.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cry Terror! (1958)

Director: Andrew L. Stone

Writer: Andrew L. Stone

Composer: Howard Jackson

Starring: James Mason, Inger Stevens, Rod Steiger, Neville Brand, Angie Dickinson, Kenneth Tobey, Jack Klugman, Jack Kruschen, Carleton Young, Barney Phillips, William Schallert

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A Los Angeles Crime Saga

Plot: A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

What a cast!  Here's a good crime thriller that stays pretty solid except for one thing, the inner thought narration from Mason and Stevens.  It's the kind where they vocalize what they're thinking in terms of how to get out of this hostage situation.  Have you ever wondered why it's always a 'situation' when it comes to hostages and never anything else like a hostage kanundrum?  Anyway, the narration is annoying and it gets old fast.  The performances are good and it's great seeing Steiger not overdoing it as the villain.  Brand plays a great bad guy and he's more reserved than he became a decade later.  I'm not sure I ever saw Klugman play a bad guy but he's fun and so is Dickinson.  Hell, it's just a great cast all around and a very satisfactory ending.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Get Bruce (1999)

Director: Andrew J. Kuehn

Composer: Michael Feinstein

Starring: Bruce Vilanch, Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Lily Tomlin, Raquel Welch, Michael Feinstein, Shirley MacLaine, Florence Henderson, Steven Seagal, Michael Douglas, Paul Reiser, Roseanne Barr, Carol Burnett, Billy Crystal, Marc Shaiman, Tim Curry, Traci Lords

More info: IMDb

Tagline: These stars know Hollywood's best-kept secret!

Plot: Affectionate tribute to Bruce Vilanch, who writes material for celebrities who make public appearances, from Oscar hosts and award recipients to Presidents. We meet his mom and see photos of his childhood; in Chicago, he writes for the Tribune and then heads West. Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, and Bette Midler talk with him and to the camera about working with Bruce, and we also watch Bruce help others prepare for Liz Taylor's 60th, Bill Clinton's 50th, and an AIDS awards banquet where the hirsute, rotund Vilanch lets his emotions show.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Hilarious.  If you've never heard of Bruce Vilanch, you've probably seen him.  He's hilarious and but he's also incredibly skilled at writing jokes for everyone and that's not easy.  You have to consider the person's personality, profession, abilities and then there's the event they need the funny for.  Of course this breathing documentary is all about him but we gear a great deal from his friends, the top performers in the entertainment world, and you know all of them.  He's loved by everyone.  One of the MANY highlights is Robin Williams spontaneously riffing about Jack Benny and Rochester being the stars of THE X-FILES.  He slayed me.  Bette Midler...I can't get enough of her.   You're going to get a little bit of Vilanch's history but the stories from his professional years, and thankfully it's most of the film, are fucking great.  I'd love to hang around with this guy.  I usually have at least one great laugh every single day.  I think he'd shatter the bell curve.  As of 4/19 it's on Netflix. 

Starship Troopers (1997)

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Writers: Edward Neumeier, Robert A. Heinlein

Composer: Basil Poledouris

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Clancy Brown, Seth Gilliam, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside, Rue McClanahan, Dean Norris, Amy Smart, Dale Dye, R. Lee Ermey

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Genocide doesn't compare to this.

Plot: Humans in a fascistic, militaristic future do battle with giant alien bugs in a fight for survival.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

When I first saw this in the late 90s I didn't like it one bit.  Now I'm a fan of Verhoeven but this just felt cheap.  Now I get it.  It's a throwback to 50s sci-fi flicks and it totally works.  I enjoyed it much more this time around.  I still don't think it's a great film but it is fun.  I like it but not enough to give the sequels a try.  It looks like it all went downhill after this one.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Negotiator (1998)

Director: F. Gary Gray

Writers: James DeMonaco, Kevin Fox

Composer: Graeme Revell

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse, Ron Rifkin, John Spencer, J.T. Walsh, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Paul Giamatti, Regina Taylor, Bruce Beatty, Michael Cudlitz, Carlos Gomez, Tim Kelleher, Dean Norris

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Chicago's two top negotiators must face each other. One of them is holding hostages. The other is demanding surrender. And everyone's holding their breath.

Plot: In a desperate attempt to prove his innocence, a skilled police negotiator accused of corruption and murder takes hostages in a government office to gain the time he needs to find the truth.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe, but I think twice is the magic number.

It's been ages since I saw this last and it wasn't as good this time but not by much.  It's a good crime thriller with a great cast doing a fine job, the tension is nicely handled and the pacing is good but it gets better and faster once the shit hits the taking hostages fan.  There are some clever little turns in the script but you might just fell them coming just before you turn the bend if you're thinking like Danny (Jackson).  The only real issue I have with the picture is that the story asks a little too much of your suspension of disbelief.  The last half hour (which feels like it lasts longer) has Danny & co. doing some far fetched things that you know there's no way these things would happen in real life.  I can take that to a point and this picture goes past that a couple of blocks.  It's still a fun film with a great cast doing a great job.  The Warner Bros. DVD gives you a nice anamorphic widescreen print with the only extras being trailers for four films (2 each with Jackson and Spacey).

Rocky (1976)

Director: John G. Avildsen

Writer: Sylvester Stallone

Composer: Bill Conti

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Thayer David, Joe Spinell, Jimmy Gambina, Bill Baldwin, Al Silvani, George Memmoli, Jodi Letizia, Stan Shaw, Frank Stallone, Lloyd Kaufman, Frank Stallone Jr., Joe Frazier, Michael Dorn

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You have a ringside seat for the bloodiest bicentennial in history!

Plot: Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight the heavy-weight champion, Apollo Creed, in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Man, I haven't seen this flick in probably 35 years and it's just a great as it ever was but then I couldn't remember much about it.  It's a shockingly simple story, something a lot of film makers and Hollywood have forgotten how to make.  If it were made today, there'd be a lot more crap going on to make it out to be something bigger than it needs to be like having the local mobster Rocky works for getting more involved in Rocky's affairs so he's battling on two fronts.  There's a lot to like but it's Stallone's script and performance that makes this as special as anything else.  Rocky is one of the most instantly likable characters out there.  He's so down to Earth and you always know what he's feeling.  You couldn't ask for a better underdog to root for.  His monologue to Adrian the night before the fight (a scene that Stallone had to fight to keep in, by the way) gets to the heart of the character and the movie.  And in that one moment he sets up the emotional one-two punch the ending delivers.  Hell, I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.  It's a wonderful piece of film making from every angle and it's not surprising that it made Stallone into one of the biggest movies stars of the 20th Century.  I've only ever seen the first two films and ROCKY BALBOA (2006) (which is as good as the first one).  A couple of years ago I picked up the MGM Blu-ray box set, The Undisputed Collection, that has all 6 films.  I was shocked to see that, while there are a good deal of extras, there's no commentary track which makes me wonder if either ever did one for a previous release.  I'm looking forward to making my way through this series, for better or worse.  At least I know it ends on a high note.  I can't wait another 35 years to see this one again. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Daughter of the Jungle (1982)

Original title: Incontro Nell'ultimo Paradiso

Director: Umberto Lenzi

Writers: Marina Garroni, Giovanni Lombardo Radice

Composers: Roberto Donati, Fiamma Maglione

Starring: Sabrina Siani, Rodolfo Bigotti, Renato Miracco, Mario Pedone, Wai Laung, Salvatore Borghese, Claudio Miraco

More info: IMDb

Plot: Ringo and Butch gets into trouble while on their vacation in South America. But well in the jungle they get captured by natives. Soon they realize that they ain't the only white people there, as the sexy jungle woman Luana and a gang of thieves are present.

My rating: 3/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

OMG this is awful.  It's Italian jungle trash.  There's very little to like.  Siani makes for a lovely she-Tarzan, and like Tarzan she gets topless.  Goody.  The opening is pretty funny with a seaside village, complete with straw huts.  The locals are riding mopeds in the sand, playing, watching a Western on their TV and living it up with modern conveniences until the busload of tourists arrive.  They scatter quickly to ditch the modern stuff and get their tribe gear together.  Then we get to meet Butch and Ringo, two of the most annoying humans ever filmed. No joke.  Nearly all of the English dub is atrocious.  I was hoping maybe it was just the dubbing but two things happened.  First, these two clowns and the bad guys are over acting their Italian asses off.  Then after it was over I found the entire movie on YouTube in Italian and the bits I briefly watched were almost as bad as what I saw.  This is supposed to be a comedy and I can see that but it's painfully unfunny and irritating.  If the acting weren't so bad I'd probably give it a couple more points.  The more I think about it, I should've gone lower but Lenzi can shoot a professional looking film and this does have the look that those who made it had the skills.  I'm not one to not finish a movie so it was hard for me to continue after fifteen minutes.  We'd all like to change something about ourselves.  At least the print I saw was in anamorphic widescreen but that's hardly a consolation. 

Heat (1995)

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Michael Mann

Composer: Elliot Goldenthal

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Kevin Gage, Hank Azaria, Susan Traylor, Kim Staunton, Danny Trejo, Henry Rollins, Tone Loc, Jeremy Piven, Xander Berkeley, Bud Cort

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  A Los Angeles Crime Saga

Plot: A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I wasn't a big fan of this when I saw it about twenty years ago but when I caught it again last night, I really dug it.  I now get why this is a big hit with a lot of folks.  It's a very good film.  Pacino goes overboard sometimes like Pacino can do but it's a well-paced, entertaining action crime flick that delivers the goods.  And what a cast!  There's familiar faces showing up all over the place.  The ending was satisfying but I would have also been satisfied if it had gone the other way.  Vincent (Pacino) has a really stressful, bad couple of days and it's a stretch to see so much bad shit happen to him (and I'm talking about the incident that takes him and his wife to the hospital).  One thing that I dug was that the big bank heist is only two thirds into the almost three hour movie so you've got another hour of aftermath to deal with.  It's a great flick.  The DVD I have doesn't have any extras except for the trailer but the Blu-ray is loaded with goodies.  Someday I'll see that one in a cheap dump bin and watch it again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Bucket of Blood (1995)

Director: Michael McDonald

Writers: Brendan Broderick, Charles B. Griffith, Michael McDonald

Composers: David Wurst, Eric Wurst

Starring: Anthony Michael Hall, Justine Bateman, Shadoe Stevens, Sam Lloyd, Jesse D. Goins, David Cross, Paul Bartel, Mink Stole, Will Ferrell

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Creations born of murder...

Plot: Walter Paisley, a busboy at a cappuccino bar called the Jabberjaw, is praised as a genius after he kills his landlady's cat and covers it in plaster. Pressured to produce more work, he goes after bigger subjects.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Oh, this is dreadful and that's got a lot to do with how much fun the original A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) is.  It's night and day.  Really.  The pacing is very 'low-budget' slow.  It's also visually unnecessarily dark.  This remake follows the same beats (hahahahaha, see what I did there?) as the original but it misses the boat on the execution of the humor.  I'd give it a lower score but there are some positives.  Shadoe Stevens plays the beatnik poet and he delivers his lines with gusto.  He's not as fun as his counterpart in the '59 film.  Something the original couldn't deliver that this one does is bewbs.  There's some great nudity but not much of it.  The bland score in this one is a contributing factor to dragging the film.  It's just no fun.  Even fans of the original who are curious are going to be let down.  You can watch the whole film on YouTube (above) if you really must watch it. 

Ocean's Twelve (2004)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: George Nolfi

Composer: David Holmes

Starring: Starring: George Clooney, Bernie Mac, Brad Pitt, Elliott Gould, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Robbie Coltrane, Jeroen Krabbe, Vincent Cassel, Eddie Izzard, Topher Grace, Bruce Willis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You cross one ocean, you face them all

Plot: Three years after pulling an impossible heist of a three-casino vault Daniel Ocean's Eleven plus wife Tess have been found and fingered by Terry Benedict. Mr. Benedict has promised the provider of the information to show restraint and give the clan two weeks to repay him with interest to the tune of over $190 million. Without a job that can provide that kind of pay off, the gang must accept the challenge of premier thief Francois Toulour to see who can steal a famous work of art first and claim the title of greatest thief ever.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

I enjoyed the first film but this one misses the point.  The same cast is back (that's a good thing), the location has moved from Las Vegas to gorgeous Italy (VERY big thing) and there are consequences to what happened in the last film that make this a direct sequel rather than another adventure.  I'd be more OK with the latter if the movie were first and  It isn't.  I did enjoy the Julia Roberts bit in the last act with Bruce Willis.  That was fun but the rest of it just kind of sat there.  The cast went through their script requirements but that element of fun was missing.  The location helps but only so far.  I spent half the picture thinking about watching one of those great 60s European heist films.  At least there, with some of them, I'd get what I was looking for.  I hope the third Ocean's picture fixes this and returns to form. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rosso Sangue (1981)

AKA: Absurd
AKA: Horrible
AKA: Antropophagus 2

Director: Joe D'Amato

Writer: George Eastman

Composer: Carlo Maria Cordio

Starring: George Eastman, Annie Belle, Charles Borromel, Katya Berger, Kasimir Berger, Hanja Kochansky, Ian Danby, Ted Rusoff, Edmund Purdom

More info: IMDb
Plot: A priest comes to a small town to help get rid of a monster whose blood coagulates very fast. This creates problems as the monster is very hard to kill and then decides to go on a killing spree of its own.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Some of the titles set this up to be appropriate.  Horrible or absurd it's not but it's not good, either.  It's your slightly above average Italian horror movie from this era except that it doesn't have a lot of gore and there's no nudity.  Sad face.  The score tries to be the kind of groovy stuff Goblin put out but it only partially succeeds.  George Eastman plays the killer who doesn't speak a word (and he wrote the screenplay).  The mother fucker is 6'9"!!!  If I knew that I forgot.  That's a tall drink of water.  He makes for a menacing foe.  He even growls which is silly.  His rampage at the end seems to go on forever but he eventually gets his at the end and he gets it good (it makes for a GREAT final shot).  The print I saw had the original Italian title but was dubbed in English.  The dub was pretty good.  It really is a middle of road Italian horror/thriller and the only scene that I actually got a kick out of was when there's an American football game on the TV and the shit the commentator says is hilarious.  It's in the background and it's not hard to hear so if you should watch this, listen for it and have a laugh.  The Anamorphic widescreen print looked great.  D'Amato knew how to shoot a picture.  He made some great ones.  This one looks good and you can tell that it was made by someone who knew his craft but the pacing hurts it. 

Sphere (1998)

Director: Barry Levinson

Writers: Michael Crichton, Kurt Wimmer, Stephen Hauser, Paul Attanasio

Composer: Elliot Goldenthal

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Coyote, Liev Schreiber, Queen Latifah, Marga Gomez, Huey Lewis, Bernard Hocke, James Pickens Jr., Michael Keys Hall, Ralph Tabakin

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A thousand feet beneath the sea, the blackest holes are in the mind...

Plot: 1000 feet below the ocean, navy divers discover an object half-a-mile long. A crack team of scientists are deployed to the site in Deepsea Habitats. What they find boggles the mind as they discover a perfect metal sphere. What is the secret behind the sphere? Will they survive the mysterious 'manifestations'? Who or what is creating these? They may never live to find out.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe, but on Blu-ray next time.

The first hour or so had me really captivated.  Thank you, brisk pacing and Barry Levinson.  I was totally on board and sucked in.  Then once the strange goings-on were well under way it started to drag a little but I was still digging it and hoping like mad that they don't fuck it up with a shit-tsumani of suck.  Well, the ending came and went and it didn't suck except for a little when the surviving members make that 'pact' and fix the situation.  I wonder how it was handled in the novel?  Goldenthal's score hit the right beats, helping to create a scary environment as did the cinematography, lighting, set design, et al.  There's some good tension building and some nice performances.  The story moves in such a way in the second half that will keep you guessing as to what the fuck is going on.  I still wasn't sure entirely and I thought that maybe I blinked too much and missed that one key piece of information.  But then it probably wasn't explained at all which can work in its favor.  The old Warner Bros. snapcase DVD has a non-anamorphic widescreen print (which otherwise looks good), a 14 minute special effects featurette, a commentary with Hoffman and Jackson (I'd like to hear that one someday), 3 TV spots and (WTF?) the theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen.  Again, WTF?  The trailer and not the movie?  Whatever. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Zachariah (1971)

Director: George Englund

Writers: Philip Austin, Peter Bergman, Hermann Hesse, Joe Massot, David Ossman, Phil Proctor

Composer: Jimmie Haskell

Starring: John Rubinstein, Patricia Quinn, Don Johnson, Country Joe and the FIsh, Elvin Jones, Doug Kershaw, William Challee, Robert Ball, Dick Van Patten, James Gang, White Lightnin', The New York Rock Ensemble, Peter Bergman, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, Lawrence Kubik, Country Joe McDonald, Barry Melton, Joe Walsh, Hank Worden

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A Head of His Time

Plot: Gunfights and electric guitars in the Old West? You bet! Zachariah gets a mail order gun, practices a little, and kills a man in the local saloon. He and his friend Matthew set out to become gunfighters, joining with the Crackers, a rock band who are also (pitifully inept) stage robbers. Having quickly outgrown that gang, Zachariah and Matthew set out to become bigtime gunslingers. Before long, they part company and a rivalry grows between them.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

What the fuck did I just watch?  It's like rock & roll hippies in the old west but that makes it sound a lot more fun and interesting than it actually is.  It is bizarre, I'll say that much.  A modern rock band existing in the 19th Century takes a minute to get used to but you adjust quickly.  Before I knew it, I was scratching my head wondering what the meaning of all of this is.  But, hey, it's got a super young Don Johnson in his second film.

How about that?  The story is simple enough but it's the shit surrounding it that's odd.  It's professionally made.  The camerawork is good and you can tell money was spent in all the right places.  The dialogue feels appropriate for what you see but it's just strange enough that someone had something deliberate to say...I just can't think of what that would be.  The performances work for what this is so it's not like a bunch of reefer dudes got their hands on a camera and made a movie.  It's not quite a dull film because of all the wacky shit that's going on and it does have some entertainment value but not much.  I kept hoping that the last act would provide some help in understanding why this picture might've been made but it didn't.  The MGM DVD has a great looking anamorphic widescreen print with no extras.  This picture could use someone explaining how this got made.  The entire film is still on YouTube.  Check it out if you're curious.

William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge (2014)

Director: William Shatner

Writer: William Shatner

Hairpiece: William Shatner

Ego: William Shatner

Assistant to Ego: William Shatner

Composer: Catalin Marin

Starring: Richard Arnold, Ira Steven Behr, Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, Denise Crosby, John de Lancie, Lolita Fatjo, D.C. Fontana, Jonathan Frakes, David Gerrold, Maurice Hurley, Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Livingston, Gates McFadden, Leslie Moonves, Ronald D. Moore, Diana Muldaur, Michael Okuda, William Shatner, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Patrick Stewart, Tracy Torme, Herman F. Zimmerman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Untold Story Behind an Iconic Sci-Fi Franchise

Plot: The story of the struggle to create the television series, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987).

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I'll be brief.  I like Shatner but he can often be bloated in many ways.  Someone else should've directed this.  The content provided by the interviewees is fantastic (9/10). If that's all we got, I'd be thrilled and I would easily watch this a few times over the next few years.  But then you've got the shit that's in between and all over their words.  The editing is very fast.  I'm sure the average shot length is 1.5 seconds.  Seriously.  There's lots of clips, photos and animation and that's a problem.  It's too jumbled.  What's wrong with letting these people speak?  Then there's the fucking music.  It's far too busy and there's too much of it.  The score sounds like it's made for the promo part of a TV show where they're previewing what's coming up after the commercial break.  There's a sense of urgency that gives a feeling of anxiety after a few minutes.  It's only an hour long but it feels twice that.  I could watch several hours of this if it weren't for the MTV/short attention span editing and music.  It's just awful.  There's no avoiding seeing this if you're a Trek fan but it's a shame that the production values are so abrasive.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

State of Play (2009) movie poster

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy, Billy Ray, Paul Abbott

Composer: Alex Heffes

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels, Michael Berresse, Harry Lennix, Josh Mostel, Michael Weston, Barry Shabaka Henley, Viola Davis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Find The Truth

Plot: When a congressional aide is killed, a Washington D.C. journalist starts investigating the case involving the congressman, his old college friend.

My rating:  7/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Here's the American film version of the BBC miniseries of the same name from 2003.  This is a pretty good political thriller that hits the right beats and has good performances but it struck me as just being reasonably entertaining and not as exciting as perhaps it should've been.  I'm keen to see the BBC miniseries now.  That one had six hours to play with.  I like the characters and the acting in this one but I didn't feel any tension.  The Jason Bateman interview was great.  That was probably my favorite scene.  It was more loose and free flowing and the editing helped build interest.  It's basically an above average political thriller that feels perfectly content being good but not great.  That might sound like a slam but it's not my intention.  The Universal DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with the only extras being 4 minutes of deleted scenes and a 19 minute making of featurette.

Kill Me Three Times (2014)

Director: Kriv Stenders

Writer: James McFarland

Composer: Johnny Klimek

Starring: Simon Pegg, Steve Le Marquand, Alice Braga, Teresa Palmer, Bryan Brown, Callan Mulvey, Luke Hemsworth, Sullivan Stapleton

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Once is never enough

Plot: Professional hit-man Charlie Wolfe finds himself in three tales of murder, blackmail and revenge after a botched contract assignment.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

On the plus side, the performances are exactly what's needed, it's great seeing Bryan Brown again (I haven't seen any of his pictures in probably over a decade...I need more it turns out), it's got a sense of humor (especially towards violence) and there's lots of little turns that keep it interesting and fun.  Oh, and it's an hour and a half and it knows how long it needs to be.  The slight downside is that it unnecessarily plays with time, showing scenes out of order.  It would have worked just fine, if not better, played linearly.  The big bother for me was the 'cute' twangy spy guitar music vibe.  It's not so much the orchestration or the theme but rather that it's played over and over throughout the picture.  It initially sets the tone but, musically, the tone never changes or mixes it up a bit.  Other than that it's a fun picture to kill 90 minutes.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rising Sun (1993)

Director: Philip Kaufman

Writers: Michael Crichton, Philip Kaufman, Michael Backes

Composer: Toru Takemitsu

Starring: Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes, Harvey Keitel, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Kevin Anderson, Mako, Ray Wise, Stan Egi, Stan Shaw, Tia Carrere, Steve Buscemi, Tatjana Patitz

More info: IMDb

Plot: At the offices of a Japanese corporation, during a party, a woman, who's evidently a professional mistress, is found dead, apparently after some rough sex. A police detective, Web Smith is called in to investigate but before getting there, he gets a call from someone who instructs him to pick up John Connor, a former police Captain and expert on Japanese affairs. When they arrive there Web thinks that everything is obvious but Connor tells him that there's a lot more going on.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It's held up as well as I remember from seeing it in the theater 22 years ago.  I've been a lifelong fan of Connery since the 70s and I'm keen to see every movie he's done no matter how bad it is and he's done very few stinkers.  Here he looks great and he's a badass who knows what to do and no one can stop him.  I love it when he plays that type.  He's a lot of fun and the rest of the cast does a fine job.  The pacing is good but the story probably gets a little to convoluted with the bits about what happens with Eddie (with the exploding car and all).  It's not like it's a big detraction.  Who cares, really, because we're all there to see Connery, Snipes and Keitel (mostly Connery) anyway.  It's a good crime thriller that shows us some of how the Japanese business culture works.  That was neat.  Ray Wise is fun, too.  The 20th Century Fox DVD presents the film in non-anamorphic widescreen and the only extras are the fullscreen trailer for the film and the trailer for another Connery picture, ENTRAPMENT (non-anamorphic widescreen).

Source Code (2011)

Director: Duncan Jones

Writer: Ben Ripley

Composer: Chris Bacon

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Arden, Cas Anvar, Russell Peters, Brent Skagford, Craig Thomas, Gordon Masten, Scott Bakula

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Make every second count

Plot: A soldier wakes up in someone else's body and discovers he's part of an experimental government program to find the bomber of a commuter train. A mission he has only 8 minutes to complete.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

With films like GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) and EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) (but, see, I saw that one before SC) you get that feeling of deja vu when watching this.  But it goes to show you the quality of the writing and direction how that fades away that you realize you're watching a movie that takes something familiar and makes it its own.  Halfway through I had forgotten about the restarting device and I was completely enthralled with the mystery.  The ending could have been schmaltzy as hell but Jones was able to bring out some strong emotions in a way that made the picture stronger and better.  I'm not sure how this will play out with a second viewing (albeit it'll be years before I get around to it again), knowing how it all works, but it's definitely worth a shot. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (2012)

Director: Laurent Malaquais

Writer: Nat Segaloff

Composer: David O

Starring: John de Lancie, Tara Strong

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Profiling the cross-demographic fanaticism for the ostensibly girl-orientated television series, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (2010).

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Fans of MLP are going to LOVE this.  The word around the campfire is that John de Lancie (who voices the bad guy, er pony, on the show MY LITTLE PONY) wanted to make this film in response to all of the negativity lobbed around at males who enjoy the show to the point of fandom.  He wanted to show them in a positive light so that nay-sayers would hopefully shut the fuck up.  If a dude wants to play with his ponies then let 'im.  I work comiccons (about ten a year I guess) so I'm used to seeing cosplayers of all sorts.  A couple of years ago I got shit from some young males (mid-teens) for what I had to offer in My Little Pony stuff.  They wanted the Friendship Is Magic (newer MLP) and all I had was old school stuff from the 80s. They walked away in a huff of disgust.  Well excuse fuckin' me I thought.  That's when I looked into this MLP: FIM (that's generation 4 for you laypeople) and realized where I went wrong.  I still thought they were twats for the way they behaved.  But they're kids and I let it go.  Cut to last year when this doc was on Netflix (it's not anymore).  I fired it up and had a good time with it.  Having John de Lancie walk you through the whole experience helps.  It's funny, interesting and sometimes touching.  That's right.  I said it was touching.  While this is specifically about guy fans of a show that's perceived as a show strictly for girls, you can substitute any show or thing that people are into that the mainstream population disagrees with.  It's about outsiders finding acceptance.  de Lancie LOVES his fans and that alone is a big reason to love this guy.  He's fantastic with them and it's inspiring.  All celebrities that do these shows should be as gracious.  

Big Bad Mama II (1987)

Director: Jim Wynorski

Writers: R.J. Roberston, Jim Wynorski

Composer: Chuck Cirino

Starring: Angie Dickenson, Robert Culp, Danielle Brisebois, Julie McCullough, Jeff Yagher, Bruce Glover, Ebbe Roe Smith, Jacque Lynn Colton, Charles Cyphers

More info: IMDb

Tagline:Mama makes money the old fashioned way...she steals it!

Plot: When their home is repossessed, Wilma McClatchie's husband is killed and she and her two nubile young daughters set out to rob anything belonging to the owner of the bank concerned. With their exploits being chronicled by a newspaperman who has fallen for Wilma, the girls kidnap the banker's son who in turn falls for the younger daughter and joins in the gang's exploits with increasing enthusiasm.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I LOVE BIG BAD MAMA (1974).  It's funner'n'hell.  The pacing was fast, the action was good, it's loaded with casting awesomeness (which even included Wiliam Shatner) and it had that 1970s drive-in movie energy that a film like that should have.  It's just a real hoot of a picture.  Cut to 13 years later and this sequel is made and it's a shadow of its predecessor.  The dialogue is pretty bad, the performances are OK with some people and poor with others, there's a little bit of nudity (which is welcome in pictures like this) and the big action chase sequence is a montage completely lifted from the chase scenes from the first picture (!!!).  The music is synthesizer cheesy and there's a lot that's over-the-top.  Oh, and I can't let it go that SPOILER ALER, Mama died in the first one and now she's back.  There's no soul to it.  I can't tell if the film makers were even realized what made the first one so much damn fun.  But then this is 1980s Roger Corman and not 70s.  He's still, first and foremost, looking to make money but it's like that 70s film making spirit is gone from this flick.  The only thing I really liked about it was Robert Culp.  He's fun in every scene he's in but that's really it.  I liked seeing Bruce Glover again (as always) but he's hamming it up almost like a silent film era villain.  Yeah, it's a cheap picture but it's a cheap 80s picture versus a 70s one and that often makes a difference in my book. 

The DVD set from Shout Factory has great looking anamorphic prints for both BBM films.  There's a bunch of extras.  For BBM1 you get a commentary with Corman and Dickenson, another commentary with the director Steve Carver and DP Bruce Logan, Leonard Maltin interviewing Corman (it's only 5 minutes long but there's a lot in it and it's all too short), a 14 minute making of featurette called Mama Knows Best, the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen), a TV trailer and a photo gallery.  For BBM2 you get a commentary from Jim Wynorski, 2 more minutes with Corman and Maltin, a 10 minute interview with Bruce Glover (filmed in 2010) the anamorphic widescreen trailer and an anamorphic widescreen trailers for CRAZY MAMA (1975), SMOKEY BITES THE DUST (1981), JACKSON COUNTY JAIL (1976) and THE LADY IN RED (1979).  Despite BBM2's failure to recapture any of what made the first film so good, this disc is great just for BBM1 and the boatload of extras.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Director: Tim Burton

Writers: John Logan, Hugh Wheeler, Christopher Bond

Composers: Stephen Sondheim, Michael Higham

Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Jayne Wisener, Ed Sanders

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Never Forget. Never Forgive.

Plot: The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, AKA Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett. Based on the hit Broadway musical.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Great flick.  I'm kind of surprised it took me nearly ten years to see it, especially since I wanted to see it in the theater when it came out.  It's one of the rare (these days at least) Johnny Depp performances that I like.  I've been saying for years that he and Tim Burton need a moratorium for a few years.  I'm thoroughly impressed with this picture.  The look of the film is beautifully dark.  Many of the songs are very good and the stars sing them impressively well.  And the abundance of slit throats!  YES!  It's great that they went for the gore and an R rating.  I loved that bit.  You don't see too many movies about serial killers with a song in their heart.  Man, the production values are outstanding and I wasn't bored for a moment.  The pacing is just right and I was captivated until the credits rolled.  Nice.  The DreamWorks DVD has a great anamorphic widescreen print with only one extra, a nicely done behind the scenes doc (26 minutes).  Now why isn't there a Blu-ray of this?

Killer Legends (2014)

Director: Joshua Zeman

Writer: Joshua Zeman

Composer: ???

Starring: Joshua Zeman, Rachel Mills

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Be careful where the truth may lead ...

Plot: Delving into our collective nightmares, this horror-documentary investigates the origins of our most terrifying urban legends and the true stories that may have inspired them.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

For lovers of true crime, this documentary covers a handful of stories with the angle of their probability for inspiring murderous urban legends.  From that stance, this is interesting and informative.  But what annoyed me is the inclusion, in front of the camera, of Zeman and Mills.  I can see where Zeman (also the writer, director and narrator) thought this would be a good idea.  It fails because they come across as rather phony sensationalist journalists.  It's not like they're actually discovering anything that countless detectives and others that came before didn't.  Then you add that to the mere 84 minute running time and they're covering several different stories.  That doesn't give you much time to spend with any single case to warrant what Zennan and Mills were attempting with their being in front of the camera.  The film starts off with one asking the other if all urban legends are based on truth and the other answers yes.  Well, that's bullshit because it is possible.  Yeah, I'm getting really nit-picky but that's what got my attention first.  Later, while walking in a wooded area (at night for more effect) they come across a couple of trees next to each other that they compare with photos of a crime that was committed in the 1940s.  One of them says that this could be the spot where the crime took place.  Yeah, but it might not be.  It's bullshit like that that you'd expect in some ghost hunting show on cable.  It sounds like I'm really beating this up but I'm just disappointed at cheap techniques like this because it cheapens an otherwise interesting and enjoyable film.  I would have a higher rating without that nonsense AND I'd want to watch it again.  That's all.  I have heard good things about Zeman's earlier film, CROPSEY (2009), which is also streaming on Netflix.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Milius (2013)

Directors: Joey Figueroa, Zak Knutson

Composer: Daniel Sternbaum

Starring: John Milius, Ethan Milius, Amanda Milius, Walter Murch, Randal Kleiser, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, Michael Mann, George Hamilton, Francis Ford Coppola, Elvis Mitchell, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Richard Dreyfuss, Bryan Singer, Robert Zemeckis, Charlie Sheen, Oliver Stone, Sylvester Stallone, William Katt, Kathleen Kennedy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Powers Boothe, Bob Gale, Sam Elliott, Lea Thompson, Kurt Sutter, Ed O'Neill, John Goodman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The true story of the greatest filmmaker you never knew

Plot: A look at the life of filmmaker,John Milius.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes!

The story goes something like this.  Steven Spielberg's in the middle of filming JAWS (1975) and he's closing to filming the intimate scene of the three leads inside the boat but the scene needs something, a chilling story for Quint to tell Brody and Hooper.  Spielberg calls his buddy John Milius and asks for some ideas.  Within minutes Spielberg is quickly writing down this incredible monologue Milius dictates about Quint and The Indianapolis.  Bam!  It's done.  How's that for talent?  It's one of the most iconic moments in film history, that monologue, and it's just as chilling to hear Robert Shaw recite as it was for me 35 years ago when I first saw it.  Milius is one of the most badass filmmakers that's ever shot a frame.  He's the man's man of movie macho motherfuckers and this is his story as told by him and seemingly countless Hollywood heavyweights.  It's a fascinating story about a true maverick whose personality and opinions ostracized him from Hollywood.  This was on Netflix last year and it's not on DVD.  I'm jonsing to see it again and I can't.  Damnit!

Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Ted Griffin

Composer: David Holmes

Starring: George Clooney, Bernie Mac, Brad Pitt, Elliott Gould, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner, Matt Damon, David Jensen, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Hollywood's A list stars come together to pull off the most daring heist Las Vegas has ever known...11 men, 3 casinos, 150 million dollars, 1 chance to pull it off.

Plot:  Danny Ocean and his eleven accomplices plan to rob three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Fun flick.  I'm a big fan of the 1960 Rat Pack film, OCEAN'S ELEVEN, and these movies rely heavily on the cast.  I'll always prefer the Rat Pack version for that reason alone, this update maintains the sense of fun and playfulness without getting mired in drama and consequences.  The heist is fun but it's secondary to the cast and how they play it.  I saw this first film when it came out so buying the Blu-ray set of all three movies for less than ten bucks was a no-brainer even if I haven't seen the other two.  I don't expect they'll be as good but if the cast is fun to watch, who cares.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Computer Chess (2013)

Director: Andrew Bujalski

Writer: Andrew Bujalski

Starring: Patrick Riester, Myles Paige, James Curry, Robin Schwartz, Gerald Peary, Wiley Wiggins, Gordon Kindlmann

More info: IMDb

Tagline: An artificially intelligent comedy from the director of Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation.

Plot: Set over the course of a weekend tournament for chess software programmers thirty-some years ago, Computer Chess transports viewers to a nostalgic moment when the contest between technology and the human spirit seemed a little more up for grabs. We get to know the eccentric geniuses possessed of the vision to teach a metal box to defeat man, literally, at his own game, laying the groundwork for artificial intelligence as we know it and will come to know it in the future.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

What a truly unique film, not for the subject matter but the whole package.  It's got the funny, intrigue, romance (well, sort of), computers and chess!  It's the sexy underworld of the early days of computers against man in a competition that will have only one victor and a room full of losers.  OK, it's not as crazy dramatic as that but it's good and it does have all of those elements.  The neat thing is how it was filmed.  It really does look and (mostly) feel like it was shot in the early 80s.  It's remarkable how well made it is.  There are a small handful of moments that don't make it as authentic as it's pretending to be but it doesn't matter.  It's such an achievement in its own right.  The actors are superb and they nail the different types they're playing.  The clothing and everything else is very well handled.  I would've been around 13 at the time this takes place and I can recall the feeling for so much of what's in the film but not on a chess weekend at a hotel.  It's more of a time thing.  It's a fun and neat film that has a few laughs and you'll be rewarded with a naked woman if you stick around until the end.  That's the sexy side of computer chess for ya!  I caught this on Netflix last year but I'd love to see a DVD with lots of extras.  The behind the scenes stuff and a commentary track would be fun to go through.

Platoon (1986)

Director: Oliver Stone

Writer: Oliver Stone

Composer: Georges Delerue

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Keith David, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Francesco Quinn, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Reggie Johnson, Mark Moses, Corey Glover, Johnny Depp, Chris Pedersen, Bob Orwig, Corkey Ford, David Neidorf, Richard Edson, Tony Todd, Dale Dye

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The first casualty of war is innocence.

Plot: A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Great flick.  I haven't seen this in nearly thirty years.  It's held up nicely.  The action scenes are well filmed, the cast is great and Delerue's score is gorgeous yet rarely heard in the film.  Stone temp-tracked (this is done to score the film with existing music before a composer writes the score) the picture with Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings.  I guess Stone loved that theme so much that he rejected Delerue's equally beautiful theme which is a shame.  Musically, the film composer can blend the themes to create a cohesive score that better marries the music to the image.  I never really heard what Delerue wrote until I bought a Delerue compilation CD in the early 90s that had his unused theme.  That's when I saw how poor Stone's decision was to reject it.  You can listen to it below.  It's still one of the top (if not THE top) Vietnam war films and that's an accomplishment considering this flick is now thirty years old.  I picked up a 14 DVD box set (Warmer Bros.) of Stone's films on the cheap a while ago and I'm just now going through it.  The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen (I really should get the Blu-ray on this as I'm sure it's better).  The extras are two commentary tracks (one with Stone and one with Dye), a making of doc (53 minutes and very informative), the original theatrical trailer (anamorphic wide), 3 TV spots, a behind the scenes photo gallery and poster art.


Monday, June 13, 2016

That Guy ... Who Was in That Thing (2012)

Directors: Ian Roumain, Michael Schwartz

Composer: Craig Stuart Garfinkle

Starring: Xander Berkeley, Bruce Davison, Craig Fairbrass, Zach Grenier, Paul Guilfoyle, Gregory Itzin, Zeljko Ivanek, Robert Joy, Stanley Kamel

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Some make it to Broadway. Some make it to Hollywood. Few make it a job.

Plot: Sixteen male actors, who are highly recognizable but not stars, detail their ups and down as they struggle to forge careers in Hollywood.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Fun flick.  I dig documentaries about the different aspects of movie making in Hollywood and this one's got a different angle.  It's the now-standard talking head documentary with a large cast with some of the same but mostly different things to say.  It doesn't take itself too seriously and it's fun all the way through.  I can't see this as something that warrants a repeat watch but it's cool hearing from a lot of actors whose names you probably don't know but whose faces you'll recognize instantly.  You'll find yourself frequently saying out loud, "Hey, I know that guy!" There's a sequel out that focuses on the girls.  I need to see that one, too.

Reincarnation (2005)

Original title: Rinne

Director: Takashi Shimizu

Writers: Takashi Shimizu, Masaki Adachi

Composer: Kenji Kawai

Starring: Yuka, Karina, Kippei Shina, Tetta Sugimoto, Shun Oguri, Marika Matsumoto, Mantaro Koichi, Atsushi Haruta, Miki Sanjo, Mao Sasaki, Hiroto Ito, Takako Fuji, Yasutoki Furuya, Tomoko Mochizuki, Hiroshi Okazaki, Taro Suwa, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Shoichiro Masumoto

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Death Is Only The Beginning

Plot: A Japanese actress begins having strange visions and experiences after landing a role in a horror film about a real-life murder spree that took place over forty years ago.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

The most shocking part of seeing this was no jump scares.  It's a modern horror movie, and the type of horror that thrives on jump scares, and there's not a single one.  I'm beside myself.   It's also a good movie.  Like a lot of Asian horror I've seen recently, the buildup is slow but the final act reveal or culmination of everything that's come before it is very satisfying and gives reason for the earlier pacing.  This is one where you think you know what's going on but it ends up taking a left turn before the finish and I dug it.  I feel compelled to mention the lack of jump scares.  People/ghosts appear all over the place and it freaks the main character out but there's no loud music or sounds associated with it, making her (and our, I suppose) reactions more genuine.  All other aspects of the picture are very good as well and it's only about an hour and a half which is a major plus as it seems like a lot of Asian horror runs too long at closer to two hours.  The Lionsgate After Dark Horrorfest DVD presents the film with a nice looking anamorphic widescreen print and the extras you get are an introduction by the director (less than a minute and the gist of it is that this is a different kind of ghost story than his two JU-ON films and his two English remakes, THE GRUDGE), an hour long making of documentary, 11 minutes with the director recounting his memories of the picture, about a half hour of deleted scenes with optional commentary and 13 minutes of trailers (non anamorphic widescreen) of Lionsgate horror films.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

To Be Takei (2014)

Director: Jennifer M. Kroot

Composer: Michael Hearst

Starring: George Takei, Brad Takei, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, John Cho, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Howard Stern, Wil Wheaton, BD Wong

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A star's trek for life, liberty and love.

Plot: A look at the many roles played by eclectic 77-year-old actor/activist George Takei, whose wit, humor and grace have helped him to become an internationally beloved figure and Internet phenomenon with 7-million Facebook fans and counting.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? No.

In the past decade George Takei has had a popularity resurgence since coming out as gay and throwing his infectious charm and personality out for everyone to see.  He's fun and full of optimism that comes through every time you see him.  It's as if he's has to force himself from smiling.  This film lets us hang out with him in all manner of places.  We learn about his childhood and the internment camps during WWII, his career and post-STAR TREK world.  His husband, Brad, gets his time, too, offering a more grounded look at the man.  It's well worth a look. 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Director: Frank Oz

Writers: Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning

Composer: Miles Goodman

Starring: Steve Martin, Michael Caine, Glenne Headly, Anton Rodgers, Barbara Harris, Ian McDiarmid, Dana Ivey, Meagen Fay, Frances Conroy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Nice guys finish last. Meet the winners.

Plot:  Two con men try to settle their rivalry by betting on who can swindle a young American heiress out of $50,000 first.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I've been re-visiting a lot of films lately that I haven't seen in 20+ years.  This one's funnier than I remember.  It's a remake of the 1964 film, BEDTIME STORY, with David Niven and Marlon Brando.  Now I'm really wanting to re-visit that one, too.  The only thing I don't care for in this one is when Steve Martin goes full retard in an effort to frighten off the rich women after they've given their money to Michael Caine.  It's just too much.  Hell, there's a lot of Steve Martin in this that's over the top but he's got moments of genuine funny.  They do it in BEDTIME STORY but I can't remember that one much.  This is a fun picture with lots of laughs and it's nice to enjoy a movie more the second time around after all these years.  The MGM double feature DVD set (with KINGPIN) has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with a few extras in a commentary track with Frank Oz, a 6 minute making of featurette, a teaser trailer with optional Frank Oz commentary (which is neat) and the original theatrical trailer (fullscreen).

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)

Director: Robert Wise

Writers: Dana Lyon, Elick Moll, Frank Partos

Composer: Sol Kaplan

Starring: Richard Basehart, Valentina Cortese, William Lundigan, Fay Baker, Gordon Gebert, Steven Geray, Herbert Butterfield

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Shame is the mistress of this house and betrayal its master!

Plot: Concentration camp survivor Victoria Kowelska finds herself involved in mystery, greed, and murder when she assumes the identity of a dead friend in order to gain passage to America.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I digs me a good crime thriller from way back when and even the bad ones aren't all THAT bad.  The performances here are good/earnest and the story and music are alright.  I dig Robert Wise and all but this picture suffers from lack of interest.  You kind of know who's behind the bad stuff earlier than usual and then it's a simple waiting game for it to play out.  That doesn't mean I figured it out too early and I'm looking for a pat on the back but it's not all that mysterious.  After that, my interest started waning.  The picture is put together well but there's a lack of tension that you need to keep a film like this compelling.