Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fading Gigolo (2013)

Director: John Turturro

Writer: John Turturro

Composer: ?

Starring:  John Turturro, Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Tonya Pinkins, Aubrey Joseph, Dante Hoagland, Isaiah Clifton

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  The oldest profession just got older.

Plot:  Fioravante decides to become a professional Don Juan as a way of making money to help his cash-strapped friend, Murray. With Murray acting as his "manager", the duo quickly finds themselves caught up in the crosscurrents of love and money.



My rating:  7/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah.

Man, I am so going to write, direct and star in my own movie.  John Turturro has a three-way with Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara!!!  Hell, even Mrs. Scorethefilm is on board for this.  I'll get to work on that first thing in the morning for tonight I'll dream up some scenarios.  I can work out the blocking later.  I really enjoyed this picture.  Woody is in full on funny Woody mode and that's great.  Turturro plays Fioravante quietly.   He plays well against Woody.  Liev Schreiber does well in his small than usual role (which I liked) and Vanessa Paradis is great as the woman who inadvertently sends Fioravante on a different path.  It's a cute film but it's also funny and soothing.  Woody needs to be in front of the camera more these days.  The dude's 80 and he's still got it just like the old days.



Kalifornia (1993)

Director: Dominic Sena

Writers: Stephen Levy, Tim Metcalfe

Composer: Carter Burwell

Starring: David Duchovny, Michelle Forbes, Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A state of fear and terror

Plot: A journalist duo go on a tour of serial killer murder sites with two companions, unaware that one of them is a serial killer himself.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I've seen this twice now in twenty years and I had the same feeling about it now as then.  I LOVE Juliette Lewis in this.  She plays dumb trash unlike any other.  I've met people like her and it's scary how good she nails it.  Pitt is good, too, if even a little over the top sometimes.  It's Duchovny and Forbes that don't seem to hold up their end of the acting bargain as they're both sometimes pretty wooden.  At the very least their characters aren't nearly as interesting as Pitt and Lewis.  The film does do well with suspense and working the thriller angle.  It's most interesting before Early (Pitt) shows his true nature and the cat is out of the bag for Brian (Duchovny) and Carrie (Forbes).  I preferred the the first two acts.  That's probably because we the audience don't know everything about Early for a long while but we're sure as shit more informed than Brian and Carrie.  The plot device of B & C taking a road trip to visit famous serial killer kill sites is somewhat gimmicky but there's no escaping Pitt & Lewis's unpredictable and dangerous characters.  The ending is OK.  I really want to like this picture more but two hours of Duchovny and Forbes as close to bland as they were...it's hard to take.  And the thing is I've liked them both in other films/TV shows they've done. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer

Composers: Junkie XL, Hans Zimmer

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Godot, Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey, Tao Okamoto, Michael Shannon

More info: IMDb


Plot:  Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It's up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.



My rating: 6/10
UPDATE 9/7/16: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

SPOILERS ABOUND!!!  YARRRRRRR!!!!!

After so many negative reviews, my expectations were very low.  They were actually low after seeing MAN OF STEEL (2013).  It's the same team so why think it's going to be different?  MoS had possibilities but there were too many dumb and unnecessary moments in it to make it good and/or fun.  The same thing happens in BvS.  It took a long time for me to stop waiting to see why this movie's getting such hate.  I was actually liking it.  That is until I realized that this picture isn't going to lighten up and the little dumb things started adding up pretty quick.  I really don't want to spend too much time writing this but this is a flawed film.  Batman really believes that if a man as potentially dangerous as Superman has a 1% chance of destroying mankind then he needs to be killed?  He said that.  That's dumb thinking and he's smarter than that.  I'm totally OK with these two titans going at it but you've really got to play it just right.  And when Batman has Superman on the ropes and is about to kill him, Superman mentions the word "Martha" (which also happens to be Batman's mother's name) and Batman pulls back.  Minutes later these two are best buds.  THE FUCK?  It was a jump the shark moment (one of a few).


Ben Affleck was great.  I like his Bruce/Batman.  I was never worried about that.  Cavill is too brooding but his Clark was good.  It wouldn't take much (ahem, better writing) for him to be great in the role.  Lois Lane had less to do in this one (a very good thing) so Amy Adams wasn't nearly as annoying.  Jesse Eisenberg's choices for portraying Lex Luthor were odd (and annoying) at best.  He takes the prize for worst performance in the film.  What bugged me most is sitting through 150 minutes of darkness.  The big fight at the end is at night (of course).  I'm guessing that was to make massive amounts of fire and explosions look brighter...that and it's easier on the CGI kids.  It's just not a fun movie.  The filmmakers are so intent on making these films so dark and gritty that they forget about what makes movies like this fun and enjoyable.  It's not just the tone but also the look.  THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) did it masterfully, finding that balance of dark and fun, of having your cake and somehow eating it, too.  The Marvel films haven't lost sight of the fun factor.  I'm not saying that shit needs to be funny and comic book-y but I don't want to come out of a piece of escapism feeling like I was the one taking all the punches.


I'm not a DC hater, btw.  Just because Marvel gets it right and DC is struggling to catch up doesn't me you have to be for one or the other.  I want DC to be just as good.  There's plenty of room for more at the table.  I don't get the hate for Zack Snyder.  You can blame him for the film's style and look but you can't blame him for the biggest culprit in the reasons why this and MoS are unnecessarily flawed.  I don't hear anyone blaming the screenwriters.  Granted, I'm not reading everything but the common consensus is that Snyder sucks and he needs to be fired.  I disagree.  David Goyer is the common denominator here.  You can't make a movie without a script.  He's shown that he can do good work.  No one is mentioning that Christopher Nolan is a producer on these films.  And don't tell me that he's just there 'in name only'.  Surely he has a voice.  The studio is likely partially to blame for not giving the script time to breathe and get polished up.  They've painted themselves in a corner with fixed dates on when their DC movies are going to hit which puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on everyone involved.  They want what Marvel has but without building the foundation of quality that it needs.  BvS feels like it's doing too much at once to fast track their AVENGERS equivalent.  Seriously?  Bruce Wayne finds secret files on Luthor's computer about Cyborg, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Aquaman AND emails/instant messages them to Wonder Woman?  Talk about lazy writing.  That was awful.  There is an awful lot that needed to be cut from BvS that should've been handled differently, smarter and better.  I said I wasn't going to write much and I did.  And I feel like I'm just getting started.  Snyder recently dropped that they'll have an R-rated version of the film on home video that's three hours long, with only more violence garnering the R rating.  Maybe in twenty years I'll see it but I'm not ready for another half hour of ridiculous darkness.  I believe that there's a good film in BvS but it would take a good deal of editing to begin to find it.

UPDATE 9/7/16: I just watched the Ultimate Edition and boy oh boy what a difference this cut makes!  It's rather great.  Now, I think part of it is waiting a few months to revisit it but a bigger part is this cut.  There were a few things I noticed that were added but not thirty minutes' worth.  Some scenes were a little longer, giving us a little more time to soak things in like when Wonder Woman reads Batman's email about the other Meta Humans (it sounds so silly when typing this).  The things that still bug me a lot are what ends the BvS fight and Clark mailing the ring to his mom to give to Lois.  The latter makes no sense whatsoever and I've yet to hear a good explanation.  I wasn't much of a fan when I saw this in the theater but I'm sure a fan now that I've seen this extended version.  I liked it.  Give it a shot.  

Mel Brooks: Make a Noise (2013)

Director: Robert Trachtenberg

Writer: Robert Trachtenberg

Starring: Mel Brooks, Richard Benjamin, Andrew Bergman, Matthew Broderick, Michael Gruskoff, Buck Henry, Nathan Lane, Cloris Leachman, Barry Levinson, Richard Lewis, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Joan Rivers, Neil Simon, David Steinberg, Norman Steinberg, Susan Stroman, Tracey Ullman, Steven Weber

More info: IMDb


Plot:  In 60-years in show business, he has earned more awards than any other living entertainer. A comedy giant of our time, Melvin Kaminsky developed his aggressively funny personality on the streets of Brooklyn, and the Catskill Mountains, before landing a writers job on the legendary "Your Show of Shows". The first "2000 Year Old Man" album, recorded with Carl Reiner in the early '60s, unleashed his wacky mind on the world. His brazen satirical film "The Producers" won the 1968 Oscar for best screenplay and such cult classics as "Blazing Saddles", "Young Frankenstein", and "High Anxiety" followed. Brooks has never participated in a biography before and requested that his friends not talk about him - until now - making this film a genuine first.



My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? YES!!!

I LOVE Mel Brooks.  If all he ever made was BLAZING SADDLES (1974), he'd be remembered as a comedy genius but he also made THE PRODUCERS (1967), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) among many other funny pictures but he was also a writer on Sid Caesar's TV shows in the 50s and GET SMART.  Brooks was 88 at the time this was made and he's as spry as he was forty years ago.  He's still a sharp as a tack and funny as shit.  This near feature length documentary starts with Mel's birth and goes through his entire and remarkable career with current interviews (as well as vintage), loads of clips from shows and films he worked on and so much more.  It's wonderful.  The pacing is quick.  I laughed and cried...but mostly laughed.  Brooks is so delightful, he's contagious.  He'll be 90 this June.  I can't recommend this enough.  It's currently on Netflix.

As Above, So Below (2014)

Director: John Erick Dowdle

Writers: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle

Composer: Keefus Ciancia

Starring: Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, Francois Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, Cosme Castro, Hamid Djavadan, Theo Cholbi, Emy Levy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The only way out is down.

Plot: When a team of explorers ventures into the catacombs that lie beneath the streets of Paris, they uncover the dark secret that lies within this city of the dead.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I didn't know what to expect going in.  I hadn't watched any trailers or read anything about it except that it was generally well-received and it took place in the catacombs below Paris.  The setting was great, different, unusual and creepy.  I really dug it.  Horror movies that have a reality-based story and scares tend to do better with me and for a while it looked like that's where this picture was going.  Then the supernatural aspect works its way into it and it took a few minutes for me to accept it.  Once I did, though, I enjoyed it more.  There's an interesting concept that gets realized in the final act that also took a while to seep in (for me at least) but it made for an unusual and satisfying conclusion.  The filmmakers do a wonderful job of creating the catacombs and the creepy atmosphere therein. It is a found footage-ish film and the hand-held camera work got on my nerves a few times so if this isn't your bag you should probably skip it.  I would've preferred a more traditional approach to the filming or at least keep the damn camera steady instead of giving the feeling like your slinging it around on a rope from time to time. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009)

Director: Troy Duffy

Writers: Troy Duffy, Taylor Duffy

Composer: Jeff Danna

Starring: Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Billy Connolly, Clifton Collins Jr., Julie Benz, Bob Marley, Brian Mahoney, David Ferry, David Della Rocco, Peter Fona, Daniel DeSanto, Gerard Parkes, Matthew Lemche, Robert Mauriell, Judd Nelson, Rob Wells, Willem Dafoe

More info: IMDb


Plot:  The MacManus brothers are living a quiet life in Ireland with their father, but when they learn that their beloved priest has been killed by mob forces, they go back to Boston to bring justice to those responsible and avenge the priest.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I'd heard all kinds of shit about this one that I avoided it.  I liked THE BOONDOCK SAINTS (1999) enough but even after a couple of watches I still can't get behind calling it the classic so many people praise it to be.  I'm not going to give up on it because there's a lot to like about the first one just like this sequel.  The cast is fun and the pacing feels much faster than the first film.  Plus you get Rob Wells (Ricky from THE TRAILER PARK BOYS show) in a somewhat serious role.  That was neat.  I totally didn't see Peter Fonda under all that makeup.  There was something off about his character that I didn't like as in they should've gotten someone better.  He looked phony and now I know why.  The music is upbeat and fun and the two brothers have a great camaraderie between them that's fun to watch.  Billy Connolly should be in everything.  I love that guy.  Judd Nelson is fun, too.  What really had me scratching my head was Julie Benz and her outrageous Southern accent.  It only worked sometimes but when it didn't it was just awful.  I might watch this one again someday but not before I revisit the first one.  The ending was a lot of fun with a cameo that had me laughing with joy.  Duffy leaves the movie as if there could be a third one and I'm totally OK with that.  The Sony DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print and the extras you get are a commentary track with Duffy and the three leads, another one with Duffy and Dafoe, a couple of deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette (26 minutes),  9 minutes of Duffy & Connolly shootin' the shit, and 14 trailers but not one for this film.

The Martian (2015)

Director: Ridley Scott

Writers: Drew Goddard, Andy Weir

Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams

Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Askel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Bring Him Home

Plot: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.



My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Love it.  Here's the important stuff you need to know:  Sean Bean does not die!  Mark (Damon) really does science the shit out of his situation and it's a lot of fun watching him do it.  Michael Pena is hilarious and needs to be in more movies.  If there's a MARTIAN 2: THIS TIME THE POTATOES ARE FRIED, he needs to star in it.  I really liked the science-y nature of the picture.  Most of it seemed plausible and I really wanted it to be real, not knowing how much of it is legit. The other part I like, and this is huge, is that Mark didn't have a wife, a girlfriend or kids to get in the way.  The only thing driving him was simple survival for himself and no one else.  He didn't have anyone close to him getting in the way or motivating him.  This occurred to me late in the film and the more I thought about it afterward, the more I realized how rare of a thing this is in modern story-telling.  Loved it.  The effects were great, scenery, tension, humor, all of it.  I'll definitely see it again.  It was fun and it was a nice contrast to INTERSTELLAR (2014) when it comes to NASA-ish movies.  Ridley Scott has always been a director that will miss the mark every once in a while.  I was pleased that this one hit and it hit in a big way.  Loved it.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

Director: George Armitage

Writers: Tom Jankiewicz, D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack

Starring: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, Joan Cusack, Hank Azaria, K. Todd Freeman, Jeremy Piven, Mitchell Ryan, Michael Cudlitz, Benny Urquidez, Ann Cusack, Jenna Elfman

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Even A Hit Man Deserves A Second Shot!

Plot:  Martin Blank is a professional assassin. He is sent on a mission to a small Detroit suburb, Grosse Pointe, and, by coincidence, his ten-year high school reunion party is taking place there at the same time.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Fun flick.  I'm the same age that Martin (Cusack) is so the music takes me back a ways and I can identify with some of the film.  Not the assassin part.  I only dabbled in that and that was during the Carter administration.  Yeah, I was a kid but it was fun at first until it wasn't and then it was scary and I missed my mommy on the out of town gigs.  Cusack is a lot of fun.  Aykroyd gets too silly sometimes but I love his straight forward delivery.  It's a cute picture with a lot of things conveniently falling into place at just the right time but it's no classic like so many folks deem it.  It might be because it took me nearly twenty years to get around to watching it.  Who knows. 

It Follows (2014)

Director: David Robert Mitchell

Writer: David Robert Mitchell

Composer: Rich Vreeland

Starring: Bailey Spry, Carollette Phillips, Loren Bass, Keir Gilchrist, Maika Monroe, Lili Sepe, Charles Gertner, Debbie Williams, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It doesn't think. It doesn't feel. It doesn't give up.

Plot: A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual encounter.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I saw this in the theater nearly a year ago and I forgot to write about it.  I've since bought the Blu-ray on the super cheap but I haven't watched it yet.  It's a good flick and one of the better horror films that have come out in the past few years.  Really.  Despite not knowing the origin of the 'being' that's making these horrific things happen, the film is forced to rely on a strong premise with a strong story and performances.  It works really well.  I really liked the look and feel of a late 70s movie.  Hell, I loved that part.  And one thing that really sits well with me is how much I wanted to discuss it with my friends after it was over, one of those 'let's go out for dinner and spend an hour or two breaking this thing down and imagine this and that.'  I immediately began wondering how I would handle the situation if I suddenly became prey to the 'thing'.  What would you do?  That sort of thing.  My mind raced to find a solution to this original premise.  It's a thinker of a horror film and it doesn't pander to teenagers but instead tries to get under your skin with a potentially unsolvable frightening problem. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Writer: Jim Jarmusch

Composer: RZA

Starring: Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Cliff Gorman, Frank Minucci, Richard Portnow, Tricia Vessey, Henry Silva, Frank Adonis, Victor Argo, Damon Whitaker

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  All assassins live beyond the law... only one follows the code

Plot:  An African American mafia hit man who models himself after the samurai of old finds himself targeted for death by the mob.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

While I've known about his for ages, I only just got around to watching it and I really dug it.  There's an underlying sense of fun that elevates this.  It's a picture that balances a lot of things at once and it does them all very well.  With the strange tone in constant flux, you'd think that the film would have difficulty with its identity but it's so smoothly handled.  The cast is great.  I'm not sure why Henry Silva's role as a gang boss was so preoccupied with cartoons but it's just one more thing to pay attention to the next time I see it.  The music works well in an odd way and the ending is very good.  It's good storytelling and in a way that's unexpected.  I dismissed this for years because of the silly title but now I see that that's part of the film's charm.  It's just odd but it works so well.  The Artisan DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with extras including an isolated score, several trailers for the film, 6 minutes of outtakes, a making of featurette (21 minutes) and a music video for the song, Cakes.

The Cruel Sea (1953)

Director: Charles Frend

Writers: Nicholas Monsarrat, Eric Ambler

Composer: Alan Rawsthorne

Starring: Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, John Stratton, Denholm Elliott, John Warner, Stanley Baker, Bruce Seton, Liam Redmond, Virginia McKenna, Moira Lister, June Thorburn, Megs Jenkins, Meredith Edwards, Glyn Houston, Alec McCowen

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Monsarrat's brilliant best seller comes surging to life

Plot: At the start of World War II, Cmdr. Ericson is assigned to convoy escort HMS Compass Rose with inexperienced officers and men just out of training. The winter seas make life miserable enough, but the men must also harden themselves to rescuing survivors of U-Boat attacks, while seldom able to strike back. Traumatic events afloat and ashore create a warm bond between the skipper and his first officer.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I often appreciate British WWII pictures more than American/Hollywood ones for the shear reason that they're usually more thought-provoking or intimate or made from the pain of suffering through the war.  Hollywood films of this type often play the role of propaganda and have high action but with a strong message.  I like those films, too, but I also like to dig into a good British picture that brings with it top notch acting and, as in this case, some reflection without being bombarded with optimism.  I have no idea what I just said but it felt right.  The performances are great and they help carry this picture through the many scenarios.  Don't get too attached to them because most don't survive to the end credits.  Plot-wise this film is all over the place.  We don't just hang out with the fellas on the ship the whole time.  There are a lot of situations these guys find themselves in on and off the sea.  The big moment when Ericson (Hawkins) makes a decision that puts the lives of German U-Boat sailors on the line is a tough moment for him, his crew and the viewer.  The end has him testing his judgment again with satisfying results.  It's strange that after all these years of owning the British War Collection DVD set from Anchor Bay (with 5 very good films), I finally got around to watching the last of them.  It's time re-visit the rest that include THE SHIP THAT DIED OF SHAME, WENT THE DAY WELL? (LOVE this one), THE DAM BUSTERS and THE COLDITZ STORY.  I can't recall if there are any extras on those films but this one had nothing.  It was still a great buy for the films alone.



Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Damned Don't Cry (1950)

Director: Vincent Sherman

Writers: Harold Medford, Jerome Weidman, Gertrude Walker

Composer: Daniele Amfitheatrof

Starring: Joan Crawford, David Brian, Steve Cochran, Kent Smith, Hugh Sanders, Selena Royle, Jacqueline deWit, Morris Ankrum, Edith Evanson, Richard Egan, Strother Martin

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Warner Bros.' Flaming Stars of 'Flamingo Road' Meet in Scarlet Shadows Again!

Plot:  A New York socialite climbs the ladder of success man by man until a life among rich gangsters gives her what she thought she always wanted.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Is it just me or does it seem like Joan Crawford is acting a little too hard or is it over-acting enough so that it looks like she trying too hard?  Granted, I haven't seen many of her pictures but she comes across as someone more confident in her ability than she actually is.  I'm not trying to be a dick, it's just an observation.  I realize she's from the old school of acting but she stands out more than other big name stars of her day.  It's not a bad picture.  Crawford does better when she's cold and determined like a film noir bad girl.  It takes less than thirty minutes for her to go from loving mother to the broad with the ice pick drive to the top of success.  It's then that the story gets going strong.  She's fun when she's in that mode but when she lets the emotion come through later on, it's then that her performance lags a bit.  She gets too earnest.  The ending is a mixed bag of who dies and lives which takes some of the wind out of the crime element in who deserves what.  That was a little disappointing but it's not going to ruin the movie for you.  The Warner Bros. DVD comes with a few extras.  You get a commentary track with Vincent Sherman, a Joan Crawford featurette (13 minutes and it packs enough interesting info on her and this film to make it interesting but there's an awful lot of re-telling the plot), and the theatrical trailer.




Gettysburg (1993)

Director: Ron Maxwell

Writers: Michael Shaara, Ron Maxwell

Composer: Randy Edelman

Starring: Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen, Jeff Daniels, Sam Elliott, C. Thomas Howell, Kevin Conway, John Diehl, Richard Anderson, Donal Logue, Stephen Lang, Richard Jordan, Andrew Prine, Cooper Huckabee, Patrick Gorman, Bo Brinkman, James Lancaster, William Morgan Sheppard, Kieran Mulroney, James Patrick Stuart, Tim Ruddy, Royce D. Applegate, Ivan Kane, Warren Burton, MacIntyre Dixon, Joseph Fuqua, Timothy Scott, George Lazenby

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Same Land. Same God. Different Dreams.

Plot: The three day battle that was a turning point in the Civil War is shown from the perspectives of both sides, highlighting the fight for Little Round Top, and Pickett's Charge. Other focuses include Longstreet(not"Longsreet") and Lee's relationship as they have differing strategic opinions, Armistead fighting on the opposite side of his old friend Hancock, and the Chamberlain brothers.



My rating: 5.5/10 (6 tops)

Will I watch it again?  No.

I've been looking forward to seeing this for many years and boy was I disappointed when I finally did last night.  Woof.  This has a great cast and it's a shame that so many talented actors had so little screen time.  Stephen Lang and Cooper Huckabee give the best and most enjoyable performances but there are so many others that bring the picture down.  I don't know what Martin Sheen was going for but it felt like he missed the mark.  I was beside myself.  You can only blame the actors so much, though.  The script is pretty bad but really only with the dialogue.  It's so cheesy and melodramatic (which is also how a lot of the actors deliver their lines).  I couldn't believe how over-the-top it was.  There are a LOT of speeches in this picture (yeah, it's over four hours long so there's plenty of time for them) and after the first two or three it starts to get funnier with each additional and there's probably two dozen or more.  IMDb says the budget was $25M.  It looks like a lower budget TV movie (complete with the WTF synthetic orchestral score, TV movie camera angles and so on) but it's also got an epic scope to it.  There's a lot of ground to cover and the filmmakers do a good job I suppose but it's the cornball dialogue, speeches, line delivery that keep this from becoming the epic it's striving for.  Jeff Daniels does a really good job.  I almost forgot about him.  His performance is probably the most honest of the lot.  I'm a fan of composer Randy Edelman but his score at times doesn't work and I can't believe it's not even a real orchestra performing it.  I have (soon to be 'had') the regular version on DVD.  I would've preferred to watch the extended/director's cut but I'm glad I didn't throw down even more money for it.  It's got LOTS of extras.  I'm really disappointed with the film and it's mostly with the dialogue and performances.  The overly melodramatic tone of both of those elements hinders what could have been an otherwise fine film.  It occurred to me halfway in that this had the feel of a 1940s picture given the nature of the dialogue and performances.  They would fit right in with that era.  I have the Blu-ray of GODS AND GENERALS (2003) (made by the same folks as this one) and I'm keen to watch it but maybe I'll wait a little longer before slapping that disc in the machine.  That one runs 280 minutes, about a half hour longer than GETTYSBURG.  I just hope it's not four and a half hours of ridiculous speeches and soapboxing. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Man Hunt (1941)

Director: Fritz Lang

Writers: Geoffrey Household, Dudley Nichols, Lamar Trotti

Composers: Alfred Newman, David Buttolph

Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, George Sanders, John Carradine, Roddy McDowall, Ludwig Stossel, Heather Thatcher, Frederick Worlock, Roger Imhof, Egon Brecher

More info: IMDb

Plot:  British hunter Thorndike vacationing in Bavaria has Hitler in his gun sight. He is captured, beaten, left for dead, and escapes back to London where he is hounded by German agents and aided by a young woman.



My rating:  7/10

Will I watch it again? Maybe.

The first half hour and finale are outstanding.  As soon as we leave Germany and Thorndike (Pidgeon) gets to England and meets Jerry (Bennett) it goes downhill and the thrill is gone.  There about 45 minutes of that business and then it's back to being a one-on-one with the Major (Sanders) and Thorndike.  The interactions between these two are fantastic.  Sanders does a fine job of making his Nazi mean but not a cartoon character which we saw so much of back then.  That's something that always bugged me is the making of our enemies into caraicatures rather than showing them with any intelligence and firm beliefs.  That's scarier than making them a joke in a serious picture.  The ending would be amazing if it stopped at the cave but it goes into propaganda territory with the coda that gives us the happy and hopeful ending, wanting audiences to go out and kick Jerry (not Joan Bennett's character) in the guts and give 'em the ole what fer.   I might have felt differently about it 75 years ago but now it's hard not to want a downbeat ending.

Spy Game (2001)

Director: Tony Scott

Writers: Michael Frost Beckner, David Arata

Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams

Starring: Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Larry Bryggman, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Matthew Marsh, Shane Rimmer, David Hemmings, Charlotte Rampling, Dale Dye

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's not how you play the game. It's how the game plays you.

Plot: Retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir recalls his training of Tom Bishop while working against agency politics to free him from his Chinese captors.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Hmmmm.  The more I see of Redford the more I dig the guy and that's a lot, btw.  He plays cool, calm and calculated so well that I suspect he's probably not too unlike that in real life.  Brad Pitt is pretty much Brad Pitt.  He doesn't detract from the picture but he doesn't sell it in a way that suggests you couldn't have gotten any number of other actors to fill the role just as easily.  Movie beef number 8 zillion...must we almost always have a love interest?  Can't someone be really efficient at their espionage job to the point of not falling for someone who will jeopardize their safety?  Gee whiz!  Every scene with Redford is solid.  He's fantastic.  He completely sells a sense of calm urgency and you feel confident if anyone, he's the guy that's going to deliver the goods and save the day and it's damn fun watching him do it.  The supporting cast is great, too, and Tony Scott sure knew how to make a good picture.  The anamorphic widescreen print on the Universal Collector's Edition DVD looks good and the disc sports "Over 10 hours of DVD entertainment" including featurettes, alternate versions and deleted scenes and two commentaries.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Nick Offerman: American Ham (2014)

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Writer: Nick Offerman

Composer: Ryan Miller

Starring: Nick Offerman, Marc Evan Jackson, Megan Mullally

More info: IMDb


Plot:  A live taping of Nick Offerman's one-man show at New York's historic Town Hall theater, featuring a collection of anecdotes, songs and woodworking/oral-sex techniques.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Sure.

I love this guy.  He's one of the best reasons to watch PARKS AND RECREATION.  I think he's a love him or not kind of guy.  He's not clean but he's not all that filthy, either.  His comedy is down home-y and adult.  The Netflix special isn't just jokes on a stage but there are some staged bits (the one about the song he sings and didn't get the rights for airing is pretty funny) but it's mostly a concert film for funny.

Home Before Midnight (1979)

Director: Pete Walker

Writers: Murray Smith, Michael Armstrong, Pete Walker

Composer: Ray Russell

Starring: James Aubrey, Alison Elliott, Mark Burns, Juliet Harmer, Debbie Linden, Andy Forray, Chris Jagger, Sharon Maughan, Ivor Roberts, Antonia Pemberton, Richard Todd

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The rock music business... Money, Fame, Girls... and whole lot of trouble

Plot: A successful rock lyricist becomes romantically involved with a girl he picks up hitchhiking only to learn that she is only fourteen. Her parents take action against him.



My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

So I'm at the flea market recently and this guy had a bunch of DVDs for a buck each.  I was shocked that he had a bunch of DVD from the label Shreik Show and a lot of them were unopened.  Nice!  What's more is there were some Pete Walker Collection titles in the mix.  Sold.  Now I haven't had much luck with Pete's films as I think everything I've seen of his was pretty dull and only sometimes satisfying.  That's not good.  And the ones I've seen were horror pictures.  This one is the first that wasn't...and it's actually not that bad.  The acting is good, direction, story and so on.  The songs presented as from the fictional band in the film, Bad Accidents, are of the bad, cheesy pop variety.  I must say, though, that the song that ends the film is catchy and probably the best song of the lot. That's the worst this film offends.  One of the band members is this guy, Chris Jagger, younger brother of Mick.  Guess which one he is...




His acting worked very well for this picture.  It's a shame that everything about the promotion of this film gives away the young age of the female lead.  Even knowing this, it gets interesting once Mike (Aubrey) finds out and after a while has no issue with it and agrees to continue with the relationship (he is 28).  It reminded me of a movie (which will go unnamed because that film works best if you don't know it going in - I saw it at Slamdance a couple of years back and it was one of the best films I saw that year, hands down) with an underage girl falling for a 30 year old man and the strange and tender relationship they have.  This film takes it so far as a trial where Mike has been accused of statutory rape and the girl, Ginny (Elliott) is put on the stand.  I won't spoil the finish but it plays out well.  I've got to say I'm really surprised at how non-exploitation-y this picture is.  There is some nudity scattered throughout the film (thanks, Pete) but it's hardly anything to be compared to what I've experienced from his body of work.  The Shriek Show DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen.  The extras are slim but you do get six trailers for other Pete Walker films (but not for this one) and an 11 minute interview with Walker (non-anamorphic widescreen and worth watching). 
 


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Atomic Brain Invasion (2010)

Director: Richard Griffin

Writers: Richard Griffin, Guy Benoit

Composer: Daniel Hildreth

Starring: David Lavallee Jr., Sarah Nicklin, Michael Reed, Daniel Lee White, Colin Carlton, Ruth Mahla Sullivan, Alexandra Cipolla, Alexander Lewis, Rich Tretheway, Brandon Luis Aponte

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  The Dream of the Atom Unleashes A Nightmare from Outer Space!

Plot:  A bunch of misfit high-schoolers must band together to stop an army of brain creatures from outer space that intend to kidnap Elvis Presley when he performs in a small New England town.



My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Does anyone want to buy my DVD?

I think I'm done with Richard Griffin's movies.  The first one I saw was NUN OF THAT (2009) and I absolutely loved it, so much that I immediately bought several of his films (and he's prolific).  Sadly, non of them come close to the genius of that film.  They're not even in the same ballpark.  This might be the last of his movies I have and it might be the last I see.  You can tell everyone involved had good intentions and they try really hard to make it work but it's dull and nearly all of the jokes fall flat.  I did laugh a couple of times but that's hardly enough to make this picture enough to recommend.  Griffin has what it takes to make better movies.  He's shown that he's not going to give you stationary camera shots but it's other little things like better sound when it comes to dialogue.  I'm not knowledgable about fixing that but you can tell by listening.  You can easily dismiss comments like this because I'm not making movies and I don't have first-hand experience but I think I have some valid points.  If I were inside the Griffin machine and actively making films alongside him, I might have a different view.   But I'm not and my only perspective is from in front of my screen.  I'll love Griffin all day long for NUN OF THAT but I can't keep watching his pictures hoping for another great film.  The Camp Motion Pictures DVD gives you the film in anamorphic widescreen.  The only extras are a commentary track and five trailers (none for this film).

What Lies Beneath (2000)

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writers: Clark Gregg, Sarah Kernochan

Composer: Alan Silvestri

Starring: Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Katherine Towne, James Remar, Miranda Otto, Victoria Bidewell, Diana Scarwid

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He was the perfect husband until his one mistake followed them home.

Plot: The wife of a university research scientist believes that her lakeside Vermont home is haunted by a ghost - or that she is losing her mind.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

SPOILERS LIE BELOW!!! YARRRRRR!!!!!

I last saw this in the theater in 2000 and I didn't like it at all.  Well, I liked the first hour but hated the second hour.  I just watched it a second (and last) time and it's kind of the other way around.  The first hour drags a little with one more scare given to Claire (Pfeiffer) after another.  Once the shit hits the fan (about 40 minutes from the end) when we find out what REALLY happened, that's when it gets fun until the last few minutes when it gets plain stupid.  I love having Ford play a bad guy for a change.  The entire sequence from when he gives her the paralysis drug until she makes it out of the tub is brilliant.  There's barely a note of music and Ford is just as casual as he can be as he fills in the details about the previous murder while placing her in the tub to drown.  It's really great stuff.  Once she's downstairs near Ford's body it's gets really typical Hollywood lame-O from then on out.  Enough of the 'the killer can't stay dead' bullshit.  And what's with Ford making it all the way downstairs (after his bathroom accident) and then finding a nice spot to lie down on?  Zemeckis did a great job crafting that sequence (before Ford as Jason Voorhees swings back into action) and it's crazy effective and mature for a thriller/horror film.  Great Silvestri score from start to finish, too.  Did you see that Agent Coulson wrote this?  Neat.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mr. Untouchable (2007)

Director: Marc Levin

Composer: Hi-Tek

Starring: Leroy 'Nicky' Barnes, Don Ferrarone, Thelma Grant, Carol Hawkins-Williams, Joseph Jazz Hayden, Leon Scrap Batts

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Godfather or Snitch

Plot: The true-life story of a Harlem's notorious Nicky Barnes, a junkie turned multimillionaire drug-lord, MR. UNTOUCHABLE takes its audience deep inside the heroin industry of the 1970s. The most powerful black drug kingpin in New York City history, Barnes came from humble beginnings to make himself and his comrades rich beyond their wildest dreams, ultimately reaching national infamy in 1977 when the New York Times put him on the front cover of their magazine with the headline "Mr. Untouchable". Soon after, it all came crumbling down, and facing a life sentence without parole, Barnes started naming names. With the first hand testimony from "the black Godfather" himself, this documentary tells an epic story of business, excess, greed and revenge.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

It's a great story but at the same time, this guy is responsible for countless deaths and spreading drugs like a virus.  The film does a fine job of hitting all the right beats from how Barnes got to being the top man to his eventual fall.  Barnes is a charismatic piece of shit but he's not above striking back when someone fucks him over and that's exactly what he did after he was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1978.  He turned snitch big time when his crew stopped paying his attorney fees and one was sleeping with Barnes' wife.  He gave up EVERYBODY, including admitting to 8 murders he committed.  He was beloved and despised and you're likely to feel one way or the other by the end of the picture.  

Thelma & Louise (1991)

Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: Callie Khouri

Composer: Hans Zimmer

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brad Pitt, Timothy Carhart, Lucinda Jenney, Jason Beghe

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Somebody said get a life... so they did.

Plot:  Louise is working in a diner as a waitress and has some problems with her boyfriend Jimmy, who, as a musician, is always on the road. Thelma is married to Darryl who likes his wife to stay quiet in the kitchen so that he can watch football on TV. One day they decide to break out of their normal life and jump in the car and hit the road. Their journey, however, turns into a flight when Louise kills a man who threatens to rape Thelma. They decide to go to Mexico, but soon they are hunted by American police.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I think I liked it a bit more when I saw it twenty years ago.  It's got a great premise and there are some nice moments but there's more in the picture than there needs to be.  Plus there are times when it's just being too Hollywood-y.  Maybe I wanted something grittier and a little edgier or maybe just shorter.  It's a good film but far from a great one.  Of course I'm in the minority on that one.  Great ending, though.  Still waiting on that sequel. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Texas, Adios (1966)

Original title: Texas, Addio

Director: Ferdinando Baldi

Writers: Ferdinando Baldi, Franco Rossetti

Composer: Anton Garcia Abril

Starring: Franco Nero, Alberto Dell'Acqua, Elisa Montes, Jose Guardiola, Livio Lorenzon, Hugo Blanco, Luigi Pistilli, Antonella Murgia, Gino Pernice

More info: IMDb

Plot:  A Texan sheriff and his younger brother travel across the frontier into Mexico to confront the man who killed their father.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

One of the only reasons anyone might seek this one out is that it stars Franco Nero in one of his earliest starring roles which came out the same year as his most famous picture, DJANGO.  Unlike Django, this Spaghetti Western is more like a traditional Western than a lot of his others.  It's still violent (love it!) and they're not afraid to kill just about anyone in this film.  The performances are very good (I've only ever seen the English dub).  Even the dubbing is good except for one character, Cisco Delgado (Suarez).  His is really bland.  I watched a few moments with the Italian dub and it's MUCH better but the character still comes off like he's tired and doesn't care.  They could've done so much better in matching a quality voice to his image.  The next time I'll watch the Italian Dub.  Still, it's a good movie with a good story, locations, action (Franco Nero's fighting looks more realistic than most actors) and the score is fantastic.  It's got one of my all-time favorite Spaghetti Western cues. The ending is bleak and it's not the standard finale Hollywood was cooking up back then.  The Blue Underground DVD, from the Spaghetti Western Collection OOP box set, looks great.  It's anamorphic widescreen and you even get a few extras in a 6 minute interview with Nero about his picture and his getting into films and Westerns and the English theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen).  This picture probably won't list on anyone's top 20 Spags but it's definitely worth a look for fans of the genre.


 





The Maiden Heist (2009)

Director: Peter Hewitt

Writer: Micheal LeSieur

Composer: Rupert Gregson-Williams

Starring: Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy, Marcia Gay Harden, Todd Weeks

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They're not bad guys. Just bad thieves.

Plot: A comedy centered on three museum security guards who devise a plan to steal back the artworks to which they have become attached after they are transferred to another museum.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It's cute and harmless.  Suspension of disbelief can be a beautiful thing.  There's no way these guys could have gotten anywhere close to doing what they did but that's not required to enjoy the picture.  It's a light-hearted heist movie with some really fun actors doing their fun thing and that's OK by me.  There's some neat stop-motion business when the boys are discussing their plan with the makeshift model of the museum.  That was neat.  There are a couple of scenes that go on too long as though they should've been tightened up some and there's more than a few moments that are predictable but, again, that doesn't mean you can't sit back and enjoy the film for what it is.  And the ending bit with Roger's (Walken) wife on the beach was beautiful and touching.  The same goes for what follows just before the credits roll.  The Sony DVD comes with a few extras (more than you'd think for this release) in the way of a commentary track with the director, writer and Rob Paris (producer), a making-of featurette (18 min), 13 deleted scenes with option commentary, a 3 minute blooper reel and trailers for 9 films that aren't this one.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Destructors (1974)

Original title: The Marseille Contract

Director: Robert Parrish

Writer: Judd Bernard

Composer: Roy Budd

Starring: Michael Caine, Anthony Quinn, James Mason, Maruice Ronet, Alexandra Stewart, Maureen Kerwin, Catherine Rouvel, Marcel Bozzuffi, Patrick Floersheim

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  They Live the Sweet Life But They Play a Game of Sudden Death!

Plot: When a US intelligence agent is unable to bring a ruthless drug baron to justice, he resorts to hiring a contract killer. But the man he is put in contact with turns out to be an old friend.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Hmmmm.  Sometimes you watch movies only for the cast regardless of the quality.  This one has a great leading cast and they're fun to watch (especially Caine) but it's a flawed film.  The pacing is good as are the location, chases and the overall plot but none of these aspects are very good.  It's entertaining.  I like how close Deray (Caine) gets to his target, Brizard (Mason), and how he's playing the long game.  The thing I thought that could've been improved upon was having Caine hold back a little.  He plays the character so care-free and free of consequence in killing folks, plus his charismatic gleeful demeanor, that he comes across more of a James Bond-lite figure which, while kind of fun to watch, it seemed like the picture called for someone that's a bit more gritty.  He also gets away with a lot of deaths and it's shocking that he's not accountable for any of them.  Then there's the finale with how easily and impossible it was for Ventura (Quinn) to do what he did and slip away without anyone the wiser.  Other than that it was a pretty fun time and it's certainly worth a look for fans of these cats.  You might feel a little hungry for something edgier at the end but you wouldn't have wasted your time.




Saturday, March 19, 2016

Salem's Lot (1979)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Writers: Stephen King, Paul Monash

Composer: Harry Sukman

Starring: David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Julie Cobb, Elisha Cook Jr., George Dzundza, Geoffrey Lewis, Fred Willard, Marie Windsor, Barbara Babcock

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Iconic terror from the No 1 bestselling writer.

Plot: Vampires are invading a small New England town. It's up to a novelist and a young horror fan to save it.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Good flick, especially for a TV movie.  I just saw it for the first time and I can't imagine having to sit through commercials like audiences did in '79.  It breaks up the horror and suspense way too much.  But then it also gave people who frightened easily a break from the scares.  For a picture that's just over three hours long it's surprisingly well-paced and held together.  The visual scares are great.  The vampire kid floating outside the window, scratching on the glass was really well done.  The makeup effects for the main vampire, ala NOSFERATU (1922) was a nice touch, too.  Having James Mason in your picture classes it up a couple of notches.  Love that guy.  Good flick. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

Original title: Janghwa, Hongryeon

Director: Kim Jee-woon

Writer: Kim Jee-woon

Composer: Lee Byung-woo

Starring: Kim Kap-su, Yum Jung-ah, Lim Su-Jeong, Moon Geun-young, Woo Ki-Hong, Lee Dae-Yeon, Lee Seung-bi, Park Mi-Hyun

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Our sorrow was conceived long before our birth

Plot: Two sisters who, after spending time in a mental institution, return to the home of their father and cruel stepmother. Once there, in addition to dealing with their stepmother's obsessive and unbalanced ways, an interfering ghost also affects their recovery.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? No.


It took two nights to finish this South Korean drama/thriller/horror.  In fairness, I should know better not to start watching a movie super late at night.  On the other hand, this is a VERY slow moving film but it's deliberate and it's necessary in telling the story.  I thought I had it figured out early on but there were some monkey wrenches thrown in to dispel my theory...only to turn out to be half true.  No spoilers here but this is definitely a film that demands repeat viewings.  It's well-acted and it looks fantastic.  Some will be blown away by the ending, others won't even make it that far before shutting it off.  The last twenty minutes lasted two hours and it was confusing and disorienting.  Again, I shouldn't finish watching a movie at 2 am, having been sleepy for a couple of hours to begin with.  Afterward I asked the internet to help me out and it did.  I partially understood what was going on with the last act but it took a few answers to some complicated questions to make full sense of what I saw.  I'm a little curious to see how it would play out on a second viewing but I can't see that happening anytime soon.  Plus, by waiting a few years, I will have completely forgotten everything about it and I'd still be semi-confused.  It's a vicious cycle that has no brakes...but the banana seat is super sweet.  The Red Sun 2-disc DVD set has loads of extras and the anamorphic widescreen print looks gorgeous.  I've seen a couple of Jee-woon's pictures and I like what he does but this one is just on the border of will I watch it or not.  It's a good film if you can stay awake for it.  Oh, and don't go into this thinking it's a horror film.  It's more drama with thriller and horror elements but people who dig psychological, cerebral horror should get a kick out of it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Dune (1984)

Director: David Lynch

Writers: Frank Herbert, David Lynch

Composer: Toto

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Richard Jordan, Francesca Annis, Brad Dourif, Jose Ferrer, Linda Hunt, Freddie Jones, Virginia Madsen, Everett McGill, Kenneth McMillan, Jurgen Prochnow, Paul L. Smith, Patrick Stewart, Sting, Dean Stockwell, Max von Sydow, Sean Young

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You are about to enter a world where the unexpected, the unknown, and the unbelievable meet.

Plot: A Duke's son leads desert warriors against the galactic emperor and his father's evil nemesis when they assassinate his father and free their desert world from the emperor's rule.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

I recently watched this for the first time since seeing it in the theater in the Winter of '85.  I remembered a little from then but not much except that it was OK which is about how I feel about it now.  It's neither horrible nor great.  I've not read the books or explored anything else from the series.  There's a lot of narration in this picture which only works sometimes.  When it doesn't, it's bad and bad in the way that it feels like they're trying to get way too much from the thick novel it hails from.  Cinematically it gets in the way and I would have preferred either a longer film or a stripped-down version to help the pacing flow more easily.  That's easy for me to say since I haven't read the book.  Still, it's got some nice moments.  It's neat seeing so many familiar faces.  My biggest issue is the slow as snails tempo the film takes.  I was fighting sleep more than a couple of times.  It was neat seeing a lot of steampunk before steampunk was a popular thing.  I realize this was from thirty years ago but the effects could have been better.  They don't hold up well.  The set and costume designs are great and lovely to look at but that's about it for me.  The Universal Blu-ray looks great (some might be turned off by the grain but that's film for you) and there are lots of extras, none of which I was interested in checking out after watching it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Orphan (2009)

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writers: David Johnson, Alex Mace

Composer: John Ottman

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett, Margo Martindale, Karel Roden, Aryana Engineer, Rosemary Dunsmore, Jamie Young

More info: IMDb

Tagline: There's something wrong with Esther.

Plot: A husband and wife who recently lost their baby adopt a 9-year-old girl who is not nearly as innocent as she claims to be.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Cliches-ridden but not a bad horror/thriller.  Probably the best part of the picture is near the end when you see all of the black light paintings.  Those are deliciously grisly.  The gimmick is neat but that's about it.  It's well-made but it's just loaded with tropes you've seen dozens of times from other troubled child films from the past 60 years.  The wife discovers the truth, the husband thinks she's over-reacting, the more-than-obvious of who's going to die as soon as the characters are introduced, the baddie coming back from near death at the last moment to strike one more time, shit like that.  If the story weren't so by-the-numbers it'd be a much better film.   It's got a nice atmosphere but you need more substance in your stories to elevate pictures like this into a really good horror/thriller and this one doesn't do it.  I'm probably in the minority on this one as it seems the public at large praised it when it came out.  The Warner Bros. DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print but the only extra you get is in the way of deleted scenes and an alternate ending (4 minutes total).  The alternate ending is different but it's not a game-changer by any stretch. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Leatherheads (2008)

Director: George Clooney

Writers: Duncan Brantley, Rick Reilly

Composer: Randy Newman

Starring: George Clooney, John Krasinski, Stephen Root, Renee Zellweger, Jonathan Pryce

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In the beginning, the rules were simple. There weren't any.

Plot:  In 1925, an enterprising pro football player convinces America's too-good-to-be-true college football hero to play for his team and keep the league from going under.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

I really dig Clooney a lot when he does comedy and he's made for this kind of picture.  It's a really fun ride and I was really impressed by the look and feel the filmmakers achieved of time and place.  It's great.  It's the kind of great that I'd like to step into the screen and hang out with these cats back in the twenties.  Randy Newman's score goes a long way in cementing that vibe.  It's bouncy fun.  The cast is great.  They picked some great, interesting, period-looking mugs to be in this picture.  The laughs are fun and it was clear that Clooney was going for that 1930s screwball comedy feel. The only problem with that is that the best of those pictures were snappy, tight and flew by with lightning speed.  LEATHERHEADS doesn't share that quality.  It would be a bigger blast of a ride if it were tighter.  At almost two hours, though, they do pack a lot in so it'd be really tough to cut bits out as the atmosphere is super rich and welcoming.  It's still a fun picture.  The Universal DVD has a nice anamoprhic widescreen print and there are lots of fun extras, too.  You get 8 minutes of deleted scenes, a 6 minute making of featurette, a 9 minute featurette on recreating 1920s football games, 4 minutes on Clooney's pranks, 6 minutes on the visual effects and a commentary track with Clooney and producer Grant Heslov.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Of Unknown Origin (1983)

Director: George P. Cosmatos

Writers: Chauncy G. Parker III, Brian Taggert

Composer: Kenneth Wannberg

Starring: Peter Weller, Jennifer Dale, Lawrence Dane, Kenneth Welsh, Louis Del Grande, Shannon Tweed, Keith Knight, Maury Chaykin, Leif Anderson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: If it can't scare them to death, it will find another way.

Plot: A man who recently completed rebuilding a townhouse becomes obsessed with a rat infestation until it becomes an interspecies duel.



My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This little piece of yawnfest has only a few funny and neat moments.  The title hits it on the head.  We never know much about the giant rat (and I mean GIANT) that terrorizes Robocop except that it's stupid huge and clever.  It's the kind of film that probably works better on paper because the imagination can go a long ways in filling in the visual details.  It's not that this is a poorly made film, it's not really.  The problem is that it takes a 45-60 minute idea and drags it out to an hour and a half and that spells out dullsville.  I was straddling the edge of sleep after the first half hour.  The Warner Bros. DVD has a good anamorphic widescreen print and the only extras you get are a commentary track with Peter Weller and George Cosmatos and an anamorpic widescreen trailer.