Friday, July 29, 2016

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Writers: John Crawford, Edmund Penney, Gordon T. Dawson

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: Jason Robards, Stella Stevens, David Warner, Strother Martin, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones, Peter Whitney, R.G. Armstrong, Gene Evans, William Mims, Kathleen Freeman, Susan O'Connell, Vaughn Taylor

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Cable Hogue says..."Do unto others... as you would have others do unto you."

Plot: Double-crossed and left without water in the desert, Cable Hogue is saved when he finds a spring. It is in just the right spot for a much needed rest stop on the local stagecoach line, and Hogue uses this to his advantage. He builds a house and makes money off the stagecoach passengers. Hildy, a whore from the nearest town, moves in with him. Hogue has everything going his way until the advent of the automobile ends the era of the stagecoach.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

There are very few Peckinpah films I haven't seen until now and this one just fell off that list and there are just 3 remaining.  Jason Robards is absolutely delightful in this picture.  I couldn't think of a better actor suited to this role.  The supporting cast is equally fun and outstanding.  They play some very colorful characters.  It's an unusual kind of comedy Western.  It's lighthearted for sure but there are some odd turns and some serious consequences for some of these folks that you don't normally find in Westerns.  I really liked those choices.  It certainly keeps the film interesting and a little off kilter.  The last half hour has most of those elements.  I didn't entirely like the ending only because I fell in love with certain characters and I didn't want them to go but that's OK.  It's poetic and it's got something to say that stays relevant and true to the film.  


The Warner Bros. DVD has a fine anamorphic widescreen print with a commentary by Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle, a 27-minute interview with Stella Stevens, trailers for this film (fullscreen for some damn reason), PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID (non-anamorphis widescreen), RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, THE WILD BUNCH and THE GETAWAY (all anamorphic widescreen) and a video trailer for WB's James Dean DVD collection.






Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rawhide (1951)

Director: Henry Hathaway

Writer: Dudley Nichols

Composer: Sol Kaplan

Starring: Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward, Hugh Marlowe, Dean Jagger, Edgar Buchanan, Jack Elam, George Tobias, Jeff Corey, James Millican, Louis Jean Heydt

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  A story told with a blazing .44!

Plot:  A stagecoach stop employee and a stranded woman traveler find themselves at the mercy of four desperate outlaws intent on robbing the next day's gold shipment.



My rating:  7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yeah.

Man, what a good flick!  Vinnie (Hayward) got on my nerves for a while due to her pissy attitude but over time I got where she was coming from and it didn't bother me.  The performances all around are very good.  It's a dark film for its time which makes it all the better.  The location shooting in Lone Pine, CA is gorgeous.  I could get used to living there.  Hugh Marlowe plays the lead villain but it's Jack Elam that takes the cake as the dumb and dangerous Tevis.  He's the hardened type that's a powder keg just waiting to go off when pushed too far and he does.  The direction is top notch, too.  There's a scene where a letter asking for help falls out of Tom's (Power) shirt unbeknownst to him.  The wind takes it near Rafe's (Marlowe) feet but he doesn't see it.  Then it blows over and hangs onto a lantern and just when Rafe goes to pick up the lantern (still not seeing it), the note blows away again.  There's no music and it looks like it happened as naturally as the wind.  It's a brilliantly executed scene.  The ending is balls-out incredible, especially when the baby shows up in the middle of the gunfight.  WOW!  And you could tell that baby (no more than 2 years old) was scared shitless.  It was awesome!  Tom's last line in the film is cheesy but it's the Hollywood thing to do.  Still, this is a more mature picture than what you'd expect, and it's a Western which makes it even better.




Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1984)

Director: Stephen Weeks

Writers: Stephen Weeks, Howard C. Pen, Philip M. Breen

Composer: Ron Geesin

Starring: Miles O'Keeffe, Cyrielle Clair, Leigh Lawson, Sean Connery, Trevor Howard, Peter Cushing, Ronald Lacey, Lila Kedrova, John Rhys-Davies, Wilfrid Brambell, Bruce Lidington, Douglas Wilmer, Brian Coburn, David Rappaport, Emma Sutton, THomas Heathcote, John Serret, Mike Edmonds, Peter Firth

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Men of iron...blades of steel

Plot: Gawain was a squire in King Arthur's court when the Green Knight burst in and offered to play a game with a brave knight. No knights stand to defend their king's honor. Except for the valiant Gawain. After being quickly knighted Gawain plays the game, but learns that it's all a trick, and he has lost. But the Green Knight shows mercy, letting Gawain grow a year older before having to face the consequences. Gawain journeys across the land, learning about life, saving damsels, and solving the Green Knight's riddle.



My rating:  6/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

What a cast!  The first half hour is fast paced, exciting and fun.  Connery has one hell of an entrance.  The green glitter on his face and green hair was a bit much but who the hell cares, it's Sean Fucking Connery.   The picture stays fun for a little while after Gawain begins his quest but sadly there are a few too many slow, drab spots.  Connery pops in for a few seconds here and there which helps a lot.  There's a little bit of humor but not enough.  The special effects aren't too shabby.  I'm curious as to what the budget was.  It's a good looking picture with some nice locations, costumes and so on.  And that cast is fantastic!  The ONE big issue I have is the horrid synthesizer score.  It's really bad and hurts the picture.  If the filmmakers had sprung more on the score by getting a better composer and using an orchestra it would've helped this picture a lot.  A LOT.  The really low IMDb score is unjust.  It's not that bad of a film.  The actors are all bringing it.  Connery could've easily phoned it in but he didn't.  He's as robust as ever and plays the part with much vigor.  The same goes for many others.  John Rhys-Davies plays an over-bearing Baron and he relishes in the tyrannical role.  He's awesome!  It's too bad he's also barely in the film.  There are a lot of familiar faces here that you've seen before which adds to the fun when someone new hits the screen for the first time.  



Friday, July 22, 2016

The Client (1994)

Director: Joel Schumacher

Writers: John Grisham, Akiva Goldsman, Robert Getchell

Composer: Howard Shore

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Mary-Louise Parker, Anthony LaPaglia, J.T. Walsh, Anthony Edwards, Brad Renfro, Will Patton, Bradley Whitford, Anthony Heald, Kim Coates, Kimberly Scott, David Speck, William H. Macy, Ossie Davis, Micole Mercurio, William Sanderson, Dan Castellaneta, John Diehl

More info: IMDB

Tagline: A District Attorney Out For A Conviction. A New Lawyer Out Of Her League. A Young Boy Who Knew Too Much.

Plot: A young boy who witnessed the suicide of a mafia lawyer hires an attorney to protect him when the district attorney tries to use him to take down a mob family.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I'm kind of surprised at how much I enjoyed this.  I really dig the cast.  It's a lot of fun watching Tommy Lee Jones be a likable bastard.  I thought the kid (Renfro) did a pretty good job, another surprise.  He seemed to behave in a way that a kid from a severely broken family would but, and this is a big BUT, I didn't find it realistic that he would be in control for the entire film and make things happen the way that they did.  Maybe if he were older.  I'm really surprised that Reggie (Sarandon) didn't put the brakes on that little fucker early on and get that sumbitch to tell her what the hell was going on.  But then we wouldn't have much of a movie if she had.  Despite that, it's still a good thriller with some great performances, a moody score, and good direction from Schumacher, a director I'm liking more and more. He's made some really good films.  The Warner Bros. snapecase DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print and the sole extra is the theatrical trailer (also anamorphic widescreen).

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Gangs of New York (1938)

Director: James Cruze

Writers: Herbert Asbury, Samuel Fuller, Charles F. Royal, Wellyn Totman

Composer: Alberto Colombo

Starring: Charles Bickford, Ann Dvorak, Alan Baxter, Wynne Gibson, Harold Huber, Willard Robertson, Maxie Rosenbloom, Charles Trowbridge, John Wray, Jonathan Hale

More info: IMDb

Tagline: War declared on gangland

Plot: The undercover cop Rocky Thorpe infiltrates a crime syndicate being run by the incarcerated mob boss John Franklin. Franklin conducts his business via a short-wave radio concealed in his cell. One day Franklin is caught and placed in solitary confinement. Thorpe, Franklin's physical double, takes his place. Soon changes in the gang's activities are subtly made. Thorpe orders the mob to keep careful records of their activities, to gather enough evidence to convict them all. Trouble ensues when Franklin escapes from jail.



My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

I watched this only because it's a 30s crime picture and the title (I still haven't finished Scorsese's picture of the same name).  It's not that bad.  I rather liked it.  It's loaded with cliches but who cares, it's a 1930s gangster picture.  It's also 67 minutes long and it goes by pretty quick.  That 30s gangster dialogue is always fun.  The performances are good and fun, too.  The story is a lot more ambitious (an undercover cop posing as a mob boss uniting all of the gangs of NY into once syndicate) than the 20-30 minutes allow but it works enough to still be able to enjoy the picture. 

The whole idea of a lookalike secretly stepping into their doppleganger's shoes is ridiculous when you think about it.  I did and only in very particular circumstances can I see it being successful.  If Mrs. Scorethefilm came home one night after working the mean streets of Anytown, USA and into my arms, I don't think it would take but a few seconds to smell the fix.  Even if you feign an illness or a lapse in being 'normal', I'd suspect something was up.  And to that degree, if you had a good hunch that your significant other had been switched out (for whatever reason), would you feel bad about bangin' him/her?  How weird would that be.  I'd love to part of that experiment.  Would the real Mrs. Scorethefilm get pissed?  Probably not.  Considering the circumstance, I think you'd get a pass.  And then the real fun begins when she insists on a three-way.  That leads me to another question, would you have a three-way with your significant other if the third person was YOUR doppleganger?  Hells, yeah.  That'd be one devastatingly handsome mother fucker.  It'd just be taking self masturbation to the next few levels.  It's amazing what can happen when you watch an almost 80 year old movie.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers (1967)

Director: Larry E. Jackson

Writers: Robert V. Barron, Larry E. Jackson

Composer: ???

Starring: Del Reeves, Hugh X. Lewis, Sonny Tufts, David Houston, Greta Thyssen, Maxie Rosenbloom, Lila Lee, Tommy Noonan, Hank Mills, Philip Hunter, Margie Bowes, David Wilkins, J.D. Marshall, Theodore Lehmann, Birgitta Andersson, Robert V. Barron, Mel Tillis, Jack Morey, Buck Bayliss

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's a Swamp Romp

Plot: Hayseeds abound in this musical comedy, two star-struck hoboes hop what they think is a west-bound train that will land them in Hollywood. Well, it's going to Hollywood all right, but unfortunately its destination is Hollywood, Florida. The two become so hungry along the way that they are forced to ditch the train. They end up somewhere in the deep South and eventually try to swipe a hen. Unfortunately, they get caught by the Zickafoose family who chase them all about. Soon white lightning runners are also after them and all sorts of chaos ensues.



My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

You might not know it by just the names in the cast but this dumb ass picture is loaded with talent.  For one example, Lila Lee (in her last film) made almost 100 pictures dating back to 1918!  This flick is one of those dumb Hicksploitation cheapies that were in abundance in the late 60s and 70s.  It's low budget, the acting isn't meant to be good, the Southern stereotypes are all over this and the humor is so dumb that I doubt many people over the age of 8 will laugh much.  But, and this is a big BUT, it's not nearly as bad as many I've seen.  The Florida location shooting is marvelous.  The moss hanging from the trees, rivers, swamps, etc. are great.  There's a chase down a river with an airboat being pursued by an aqua car or whatever it's called.  A cherry red covertible drives off the road and into the water.  A couple of minutes later the airboat has somehow made it's way on a backwoods road and blasts through the police roadblock.  The fuck?





The plot is simple but it's interrupted periodically with a string of country songs, some of which are not bad at all.  Mell Tillis (his first movie acting gig) has a small speaking role (where he doesn't stutter) and a song. I did laugh a little and it was mostly at Tommy Noonan (also his last picture).  I'm giving it a slightly higher score because it's not as bad as most of its type, I did end up laughing a little, the songs aren't band and are welcome (and there's a bunch) and at least they don't have the police being complete and utter incompetent dumb fucks (although they have degrees of idiocy).  As lame as this movie sounds, there are enough small reasons to want to watch it, even if you probably aren't likely to enjoy it. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

City Beneath the Sea (1971)

Director: Irwin Allen

Writers: John Meredyth Lucas, Irwin Allen

Composer: Richard LaSalle

Starring: Stuart Whitman, Rosemary Forsyth, Robert Colbert, Burr DeBenning, Susana Miranda, Paul Stewart, Whit Bissell, Richard Basehart, Joseph Cotten, James Darren, Sugar Ray Robinson, Larry Pennell, William Bryant, Robert Dowdell, Edward G. Robinson Jr., Robert Wagner

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Theirs was the most dangerous mission in history . . . to save the world from total destruction!

Plot: A group of 21st-century colonists inhabit an underwater city called Pacifica. They find that they must defend their city against hostile alien forces.



My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

From what I can see this was based on a failed TV pilot Allen made two years earlier...and it often feels like it, too.  Everyone is taking this way too seriously and the dialogue re-enforces that.  Admiral Matthews gets a ton of shit from a lot of folks about his responsibility for the death of a beloved man.  Nobody will let him (or us) forget about it and they hammer that shit into the ground to the point of my yelling at the TV, "enough already".  Of course the Admiral is found innocent and those who really killed the guy are found out.  It's neat seeing Robert Wagner (sporting a 70s cop/porn stache) playing the main villain.  There's a lot of filler in the form of scenes of "action" going on for far too long, as in we're seeing a rescue attempt in real time.  The effects are all over the place from laughable to pretty damn good.  The sets look low budget and I wouldn't be surprised if it was directly because of the budget.  More time should've been spent on the script/dialogue and in making the film more fun instead of being so drab. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Come Blow Your Horn (1963)

Director: Bud Yorkin

Writers: Neil Simon, Norman Lear

Composer: Nelson Riddle

Starring: Frank Sinatra, Lee J. Cobb, Molly Picon, Barbara Rush, Jill St. John, Dan Blocker, Phyllis McGuire, Tony Bill

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  I tell ya, chum...laughs it is!

Plot:  A New York playboy teaches his kid brother what he knows, to their parents' dismay.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Sinatra is great and he's believable as an excited brother but he looks soooooo much older than Tony Bill that it took me out of it.  Still, Sinatra is fun to watch.  Bill, on the other hand, is not.  He's annoying.  I'm sure that was the idea but his performance bugged me.  This is based on Neil Simon's play and some of it feels like it, as in the performances sometimes feeling better suited for the stage.  If you take a comedy scene from a play and put it in a film, it's often going to come across as over the top and too silly and obnoxious.  That happens a lot in this picture.  Sinatra's terrific as usual.  Cobb & Picon play their parents and they're fun (although Cobb is only 4 years older than Sinatra so there's that).  The story is good as is so many other bits but it's the over the top-ness and Bill's annoyance that kept me from enjoying it more.  Take Sinatra out of the picture and the score drops a point or two.  Dean Martin's cameo was a bright spot.





Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Thunder of Drums (1961)

Director: Joseph M. Newman

Writer: James Warner Bellah

Composer: Harry Sukman

Starring: Richard Boone, George Hamilton, Luana Patten, Arthur O'Connell, Charles Bronson, Richard Chamberlain, James Douglas, Tammy Marihugh, Carole Wells, Duane Eddy, Slim Pickens

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  A regiment of forgotten men... a woman no man could forget!

Plot: Captain Maddocks will never be promoted beyond Captain because of a mistake that he made in the past. Lt. McQuade is a green rookie who is now under the command of the tough Captain and he does not seem to be able to do anything right. Lt. McQuade also has trouble with Tracey, but it will be the renegade Indians that will test him and teach him the importance of following orders.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

#33 on Project: Badass Charles Bronson

BRONSON'S AGE: 40
LEVEL OF BADASSICITY (10 being the highest): 6

This great cast is wasted on a mediocre script with some poor dialogue.  There's a good deal of love triangle drama that bogs it down and you don't get any rootin' tootin' shootin' with the good guys versus the bad until the last twenty minutes.  Boone has a few good moments but he's also got a couple of how-was-this-left-in-the-picture spots.  Hamilton is OK at best but he doesn't fare well in parts.  Slim Pickens is great but he's hardly in it.  Richard Chamberlain has a small role and looking way too young.  Legendary guitarist Duane Eddy plays one of the soldiers, too.  The big surprise is Charles Bronson playing the comic relief!!!  He's also the one who we see and hear first after the opening credits.  He's such a badass.  You can tell he's acting, though, because he gets in a fist fight with Hamilton and it's Hamilton that wins.  In real life Bronson would've beat the tan off Hamilton's pretty face and would've pummeled that birth mark to the back of his head, ripped his head clean off exposing the spine and then turned his body neck down and thrust it straight into the dirt where it would stand as a warning to everyone not to fuck with Bronson.  Yup, that's exactly how it'd go down.  The picture has a couple of action sequences in the last act between the soldiers and the Indians.  Lessons learned, Hamilton takes over the fort and doesn't get the girl.  That's one thing that surprised even me.  I didn't see that coming.  And neither did he when, after the cameras stopped rolling, Bronson went to town on Hamilton's skinny-ass body, putting him in his place...which is, you know, upside down in the dirt with only his protruding spinal cord penetrating the dirt.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Circle of Power (1981)

AKA:  Brainwash, Mystique

Director: Bobby Roth

Writers: Beth Sullivan, Steve Bello, Gene Church, Conrad D. Carnes

Composer: Richard Markowitz

Starring: Yvette Mimieux, Christopher Allport, Cindy PIckett, John Considine, Walter Olkewicz, Leo Rossi, Scott Marlowe, Carmen Argenziano, Mary McCusker

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Where the corporation owns your body and soul.

Plot:  A group of husbands with their wives participate in a reunion where everybody will find his hidden secret. The methods used are terrible, but usually work. Just usually.



My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Well here's a little oddity that I'd never heard of.  Think of it as a look into a really fucked up corporate training retreat or Memorial Day Weekend at a Scientology center.  The team running the training/self esteem/brainwashing clinic don't waste time getting down to business.  The film doesn't, either.  It doesn't take long before the audience and the characters participating get the idea that they're totally fucked and things play out like you'd expect it to.  Some fall in line quickly, others resist and then fall in line and then you've got some that don't play well with others and rock the boat until the end credits roll.  What makes it compelling is how easy it is to make someone powerless and completely vulnerable.  We're told at the outset that all the events we will see are true (as told in the 1972 non-fiction book from Church & Carnes.  That's fucked up.  Richard Markowitz's score is really nice.  It's subtle and he uses the interval of an augmented fourth (AKA the Devil's interval which came about hundreds of years ago because it sounds sinister).  I couldn't help but think of John Williams's score for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) where he uses the same interval (and I'm pretty sure Markowitz uses the same starting pitch as Williams did).  For as good as the score was, he dropped the ball on the cheesy as shit end credits cue.  [shudders].  The ending is fine but it's not as edgy or tense as what built up to it so it feels rather weak in comparison.  It's still worth watching.  After it was over I noticed that it played at the very first Sundance Film Festival (in '82) and it won the Grand Jury Prize.  Neat.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

Director: Lewis Teague

Writers: Mark Rosenthal, Lawrence Konner

Composer: Jack Nitzsche

Starring: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Spiros Focas, Avner Eisenberg, Paul David Magid, Howard Jay Patterson, Randall Edwin Nelson, Samuel Ross Williams, Timothy Daniel Furst, Hamid Fillali, Holland Taylor

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Plot: In the blockbuster Romancing The Stone, novelist Joan Wilder (Turner) and wanderer Jack Colton (Douglas) went sailing off into the sunset together. In this thrill-packed sequel, Ralph (DeVito) is back on their trail and they're back in the fast lane on a perilous trek through the fierce North African Desert. Not even treacherous tribes, deadly dungeons and semingly endless villains can stop this trio from finding, once and for all, that mysterious "jewel."



My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  Hell, no.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE ROMANCING THE STONE (1984).  I've seen it many times and it's just one of those magical, lightning-in-a-bottle movies that doesn't come around often enough. NILE, however, is everything STONE wasn't.  Who's to blame?  Dougles, who produced it and rushed it into production (this was released the year after STONE!!!), and the screenwriters.  The direction is fine and it seems like all of the other departments did their job well but the story is pretty bad and the action scenes are weak (the fighter jet sequence is embarrassing considering the film's predecessor).  Except for three actors and their character's names, there's nothing to suggest that this is a true sequel as far as the story goes.  It felt like (I first (and last) saw this in the theater in '85) this screenplay was written prior to the first film and they wanted something quick and changed the character names and did some retro-fitting.  It's just bad.  The scuttlebutt is that Turner didn't want to do it because she didn't like the script but Douglas and his production company threatened to sue her for millions if she didn't (must've been something in her contract from the previous film or something).  Also, Diane Thomas, who wrote STONE, didn't want to be involved.  Sadly she died in a car crash two months before this film was released.  What a loss.  STONE was her first and only work in film and it could have been the start of an amazing career.  The 20th Century Fox Blu-ray has some extras (like I give a shit for the movie) with a commentary from Teague, the trailer and two featurettes which I'm not going to bother to watch. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

99 and 44/100% Dead (1974)

Director: John Frankenheimer

Writer: Robert Dillon

Composer: Henry Mancini

Starring: Richard Harris, Edmond O'Brien, Bradford Dillman, Ann Turkel, Constance Ford, Zooey Hall, Katherine Baumann, Janice Heiden, Max Kleven, Karl Lukas, Tony Brubaker, Jerry Summers, Roy Jenson, Bennie E. Dobbins, Chuck Roberson, Chuck Connors

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Everyone is dying to meet Harry Crown.

Plot: Uncle Frank Kelly calls on Harry Crown to help him in a gang war. The war becomes personal when Harry's new girlfriend is kidnapped by Uncle Frank's enemy, Big Eddie.



My rating:  5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Holy crap, what a mess!  I love the genre, Richard Harris (a little less after seeing this) and John Frankenheimer but they all blew it.  The picture is torn between being an action crime flick and a comedy/satire of sorts but they fail at nearly every turn making this not only unsure of itself but also slow and dull.  The actors are all over the place with quality.  Turkel is pretty bad.  Harris has moments of WTF.  He's miscast and makes a poor action hero.  It all ends up being pretty campy but only in spots which ensures that you don't enjoy it too much.  The opening credits with Henry Mancini's kick ass theme are AWESOME!  Then there's Harris's narration for several minutes that goes on and on.  Connors plays a mob enforcer who lost his hand and has a contraption where his hand would be and a briefcase full of attachments.  He plays it straight but it's clearly there for laughs (which works) as if to send up a James Bond picture.  And back to what this movie is trying to be, it can't be considered a tongue in cheek satire or even comedy since most of the film is playing very serious.  The pacing is super slow in spots, and by slow, it's mostly scenes going on for too long and not knowing when to quit.  I think this is the worst Frankenheimer movie I've seen to date.  There is one more positive I can say about this movie and that's the car stunts.  It's not surprising, you know, considering it's Frankenheimer.  


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Shallows (2016)

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writer: Anthony Jaswinski

Composer: Marco Beltrami

Starring: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Angelo Jose, Lozano Corzo, Trujillo Salas, Brent Cullen, Sedona Legge, Pablo Calva, Diego Espejel, Janelle Bailey, Ava Dean, Chelsea Moody, Sull "Steven" Seagall

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  What was once in the deep is now in the shallows

Plot:  A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

A MOUTHFULL OF SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!  YARRRRRR!!!!

I liked this picture until the last 15 minutes when it went to total shit.  It's a great looking film with a fine performance from Lively, who carries the picture almost single handily.  I was really digging it.  Then the bullshit comes out of the water-logged woodwork and ruins the film minutes from the end.  What did it?  The minefield of jellyfish that she navigates only getting stung once and the giant shark barely enters and runs away after being stung by a few.  If/when you see it you'll know what I mean.  Next is the utterly ridiculous and silly way she defeats the shark.  It belongs in a Looney Tunes cartoon.  To add salt to the wound, she would've died from her initial shark bite from the many, many hours after the gangrene set in.  But, OK.  I'll suspend my disbelief for that if they had just let her be rescued on the beach and ended there but it didn't.  They just HAD to have a stupid coda to show you how wonderful her life is as all of her loose ends were tied up...and that leg of hers only shows a scar.  I hated the coda but I understand how the studio didn't have the balls to end it where it should have.  It should be an alternate ending left for the DVD.  If that just had to have that ending then they could have at least done the right thing by having Lively lost her leg and wear a prosthetic one.  That would show some realism and that she overcame all of this and is still surfing despite her ordeal and handicap.  Fucking wimps.  It's sad when a film does so well for so long and then falls to shit before it's all over.  This should've been and easily could've been a better film.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dark Victory (1939)

Director: Edmund Goulding

Writers: Casey Robinson, George Emerson Brewer Jr., Bertram Bloch

Composer: Max Steiner

Starring: Bette Davis, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ronald Reagan, Henry Travers, Cora Witherspoon

More info: IMDb


Plot: A young socialite is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, and must decide whether she'll meet her final days with dignity.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Great cast.  For the first hour or so there are many moments of melodrama and overacting.  But then something happens and Judith (Davis) goes through her transformation from silly, carefree socialite to facing reality and dealing with it head-on.  Bette Davis is fantastic!  I didn't realize how amazing she was until the final third of the film.  She's marvelous in this picture.  It's great to see a 1930s picture with Bogart where he's not a cardboard bad guy.  He's fun here but you might laugh when you find out he's playing an Irish brogue.  I thought he was just a regular guy stable hand.  It doesn't matter, Bogie's fun and shows up from time to time in his supporting role.  But when he gets serious, talking about love, it's cheesy.  Ronald Reagan has a smaller role.  He's fine when he's playing a carefree playboy but he's horrible at playing drunk.  He gets the award for going overboard in this picture.  Max Steiner's score is soft, lovely and reserved.  It's a side of Steiner that you don't often get.
That last couple of scenes, though, had me tearing up and it's all Davis.  It's a good flick that snuck up on me.  The Warner Bros. DVD presents a grainer-than-usual print with extras in a commentary track with Jim Ursini and Paul Clinton, a 10 minute featurette on the film and how amazing that year was for now-classic film, and the theatrical trailer.








Monday, July 11, 2016

Seven Times Lucky (2004)

Director: Gary Yates

Writer: Gary Yates

Composer: Glenn Buhr

Starring: Kevin Pollak, Liane Balaban, Jonas Chernick, James Tolkan, Aleks Paunovic, Babs Chula, Gordon Tootoosis

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  You only con the ones you love.

Plot:  An aging con-man and a beautiful, ambitious student cross paths in a scam that promises to make them both rich.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

Not a bad flick but it's not compelling, interesting, clever or fun like you'd halfway expect from a crime flick like this one.  It's watchable and I wanted to see how it ended (which was predictable but pleasant enough).  I digs me some Pollak and he's good as usual.  It's neat seeing James Tolkan play a tough guy with a gravely voice.  Harlan (Pollak) is not someone that you'd want to hang around with...unless you wanted someone to do some stealing with.  He's a down in the dumps kind of guy that rarely shows any happiness.  It's not that his demeanor gets tiring but that I was only half rooting for the guy.  I felt sorry for him for getting screwed over BUT at the same time, the ending was weak enough that I didn't feel happy for him when he reverses his situation.  It's sad.  He does use some disguises when working jobs and his Bob Hoskins look and accent had me laughing with joy.  Fans of Kevs will want to watch this Canadian noir but not many else.  Oh, I did dig that there were elements of this taking place in different times with the clothing, cars, etc.  Neat.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Director: Oren Peli

Writer: Oren Peli

Starring: Katie Featherston, Micha Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong, Ashley Palmer, Crystal Cartwright, Spencer Marks, Randy McDowell, James Piper

More info: IMDb

Tagline: What Happens When You Sleep?

Plot: After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Geez.  It took me long enough to get around to this and it played out about as I expected.  I liked that the found footage didn't have any crazy angles or shots that would betray how the shots could possible be made, taking you out of the reality of the film.  They got that right.  This is a great example of how to make a movie with very little money.  Is it scary?  Not for my seasoned eyes but it's the last twenty minutes that deliver 'the goods', however little there are.  Katie being dragged out of bed and out of the room by the entity was pretty damn cool as were the times she got out of bed and stood there for hours.  Those were nice moments. For my money some of the best bits had to do with only the sound like the heavy steps coming up the stairs.  I suppose the ending was fine if not too abrupt.  It's not good enough to endure the 4 sequels it spawned. The alternate endings sound infinitely better than the version I saw.  They both have Katie murder Micah, one with the police showing up days later and the other with Katie slitting her throat in front of the camera.  I would have preferred either of those and my score would have risen as would the possibility of seeing at least the first sequel. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Bone Collector (1999)

Director: Phillip Noyce

Writers: Jeffery Deaver, Jeremy Lacone

Composer: Craig Armstrong

Starring: Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker, Michael McGlone, Luis Guzman, leland Orser, John Benjamin Hickey, Bobby Cannavale, Ed O'Neill, Richard Zeman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Two cops on the trail of a brutal killer. They must see as one, they must act as one, they must think as one, before the next victim falls.

Plot: A quadriplegic ex-homicide detective and his female partner try to track down a serial killer who is terrorizing New York City.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Noop.

When it comes down to it, there aren't that many REALLY good serial killer movies so my expectations were about middle of the road for this one.  Fortunately it plays out better than that but it's by no means top tier.  The performances are fine.  I felt bad for Denzel spending the entire flick in a hospital bed.  Geez that must've sucked...that is until the paychecks came rolling in.  Jolie is better than usual I guess.  Not a fan.  The music is going for that Howard Shore THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) thing and it works as intended.  This picture feels like it's also borrowing from that film with some SE7EN (1995) mixed in.  It fails at becoming anything original or its own thing but it's got a good cast with some nice atmosphere.  The killer's identity isn't revealed until the final minutes and you get the typical ending Hollywood likes in its thrillers.  What I liked most was Lincoln (Washington) coaching Amelia (Jolie) in crime scene examination techniques.  It was more interesting than about anything else.  The pacing is fine until the 2/3 mark (or thereabouts) when it starts to become tedious.  After a couple of kills and investigations everything after that is just more of the same in the cat and mouse game, unlike SE7EN which pulled it off splendidly.  The Universal DVD has an anamorphic widescreen print with extras including a commentary by Noyce, the theatrical trailer (non-anamorphic widescreen) and other trailers for THE SKULLS (also n-a wide), CRY FREEDOM (fullscreen), FEAR (n-a wide).

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Andersonville (1996)

Director: John Frankenheimer

Writer: David W. Rintels

Composer: Gary Chang

Starring: Jarrod Emick, Frederic Forrest, Ted Marcoux, Carmen Argenziano, Jayce Bartok, Frederick Coffin, Cliff De Young, Denis Forest, Justin Henry, Tony Higgins, William H. Macy, William Sanderson, Thomas F. Wilson

More info: IMDb


Plot:  The story of the most notorious Confederate prisoner of war camp in the American Civil War.



My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

After watching the very disappointing GETTYSBURG (1993) (both films made under Ted Turner's command) I was hesitant about seeing this one but I wasn't going to give up on it before it started just yet.  And boy am I glad I didn't.  It's fantastic.  At nearly three hours, I was glued to the screen.  The performances are very good and the characters well-defined and easily recognizable (which is important when you've got thousands of people in a small location all of which are filthy). There are very few big names in the cast (three that I can see) but everyone puts in their all.  The set is an exact replica (down to the size) of the original camp.  The number of prisoners is astounding and the conditions are appalling.  Frankenheimer did a masterful job juggling such a large group of mostly non-actors.  It's so good that I was surprised at how quickly it was over.  The Warner Bros. DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen and the extras include two commentaries (one with Frankenheimer and the other with misc production folks) and a deleted scene with optional commentary.  I'd like the Blu-ray on this one but there isn't one. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Misery (1990)

Director: Rob Reiner

Writers: Stephen King, William Goldman

Composer: Marc Shaiman

Starring: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen, Lauren Bacall, Graham Jarvis, Jerry Potter, J.T. Walsh

More info: IMDb

Tagline: This Christmas there will be... Misery.

Plot: After a famous author is rescued from a car crash by a fan of his novels, he comes to realize that the care he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.



My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes!

Who would've thought that fun ole Rob Reiner could turn in a top notch horror/thriller?  He's a great director so it's not that surprising I guess but it's the kind of thing that you wouldn't expect.  Anyway, this flick is great.  It's got flat out funny moments, lots of dark humor and some genuinely tense moments.  That hobbling scene gets me every single time.  The cast is perfect.  I can't imagine anyone in any role being any better.  It put Bates on the map and catapulted her to stardom.  She rightfully deserved that best acting Oscar.  Caan is superb.  Farnsworth & Sternhagen are so adorable together.  I first fell in love with her in OUTLAND (1981).  She's hilarious.  I've only seen this picture once or twice before and it's been probably twenty years since the last time.  The MGM DVD presents the film in non-anamorphic widescreen with the only extras being the theatrical trailer and teaser (both fullscreen).  I'll get rid of this one and the next time it'll be on Blu-ray.

Monday, July 4, 2016

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Director: Lewis Milestone

Writers: Erich Maria Remarque, Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott, Del Andrews

Starring: Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk, Owen Davis Jr., Walter Rogers, William Bakewell, Russell Gleason, Richard Alexander, Harold Goodwin, Slim Summerville

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  At last....the motion picture!

Plot:  A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.



My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes!

What a powerful film.  It's violent and it hammers home its message without apologies.  War is hell.  This is one of the most brilliant anti-war films I've ever seen (if not the most).  Antiquated acting style aside, even if you look at this through modern eyes, it's still a kick in the guts.  That last scene had me tearing up.  Man, it's bleak.  I can only imagine how audiences felt when seeing this 86 years ago.  I guess it would be akin to how we took in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998) during the opening D-Day Invasion sequence.  The action scenes are brutal and so much so that I'm sure veterans of the Great War reacted very emotionally upon seeing this.  Wow.  Reportedly Universal took a huge gamble spending $1M+ on making this in the beginning months of the Great Depression.  It paid off and audiences have been better for it.  I had no idea how heavy this picture was.  Unfortunately the Universal DVD I have (now had) has lousy sound and sketchy picture quality.  I hear there's a much better version out there.  The only extra on my DVD is the theatrical trailer.  This one definitely belongs in my collection but only the restored version.



Sunday, July 3, 2016

Last Breath (2010)

Director: Ty Jones

Writer: Ty Jones

Composer: Vincent Gillioz

Starring: Mandy Bannon, James Brink, Jeff East, Meagan Flynn, Nate Foxworthy, Shelly Jennings, Ty Jones, Aaron Laue, Ryan Lefebvre, Trevor Martin, Aleh Neliubin, Alex Neustaedter, C.J. Newton

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Hold onto yours

Plot: A husband and wife, whose marriage is built on shifting sand, find themselves imprisoned by a sadistic killer - forced to make choices that will ultimately determine their family's survival or demise.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

This one had me perplexed for a little bit.  Once things get going early on, it looks like it's going to be another SAW (2004) clone but then it goes in its own direction.  The ending elevates the picture quite a bit.  I REALLY liked the ending...a lot.  The husband and wife (Tina (Bannon) and Michael (Jones)) are tortured for a while and they're trussed up in a SAW-like manner, not knowing (like the viewer) what the hell is going on and who is this man that's causing this. But then something happens to the antagonist that gives reason to think that it might be something else.  Now it gets a little saccharine-y at the end just before the several minute, highly emotion explanation.  That part had me thinking this is some subversive Christian film which, hooray for them for sneaking that in, would cheapen the film as a whole (on one hand). But it's not that and I was happy for it.  I still suspect that religion is behind it.  It's a well-shot film and I'm disappointed by the low IMDb rating but I'm not all that surprised.   The pacing is fine and there's some gore for the horror fans.  It's a shame this is Jones' sole feature as director.  Cinematographer Jeremy Osbern has quite a lot of credits racked up.  The Shriek Show DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen and the extras include a commentary track, deleted scenes (5 minutes), audition footage (12 minutes), a behind the scenes featurette (12 minutes), an intro from the director (6 minutes), the trailer (anamorphic widescreen) and trailers for other films (7 minutes).

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Three Kings (1999)

Director: David O. Russell

Writers: John Ridley, David O. Russell

Composer: Carter Burwell

Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Cliff Curtis, Nora Dunn, Jamie Kennedy, Said Taghmaoui, Mykelti Williamson, Holt McCallany, Judy Greer, Christopher Lohr, Jon Sklaroff, Jim Gaffigan, Doug Jones

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In a war without heroes they are kings

Plot: In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, 4 soldiers set out to steal gold that was stolen from Kuwait, but they discover people who desperately need their help.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Great flick.  It's been probably fifteen years since I saw it and it's just as good the second time around.  It starts out with lots of humor which slowly turns to drama and stays there until the end of the picture.  The action is great, there are moments of tension and, most of all, there are several moments of emotional weight.  Russell's handling of all of this is masterful.  I especially liked the interrogation scene where you get to see what each person is thinking of while continuing to hear them speak but those thoughts are completely silent.  Brilliant.  I'm a big fan of silence or the lack of sound effects and so on.  As a life long musician, I learned the importance of silence early on and the absence of music is just as important as the notes and sometimes IS music.  I've got the DVD but it's on Netflix streaming.  I'll pick up the Blu-ray someday and give it another go.  Great flick.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Big Easy (1986)

Director: Jim McBride

Writer: Daniel Petrie Jr.

Composer: Brad Fiedel

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ellen Barkin, Ned Beatty, John Goodman, Lisa Jane Persky, Ebbe Roe Smith, Rom O'Brien, Charles Ludlam, Grace Zabriskie, Marc Lawrence, Solomon Burke

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Between them lies the fate of the state of New Orleans

Plot: Set in New Orleans. Remy McSwain, lieutenant in Homicide finds that he has two problems, the first of a series of gang killings and Ann Osborne, a beautiful attorney from the D.A.'s police corruption task force in his office. He begins a relationship with her as the killings continue only to have charges filed against him for accepting bribes as he stumbles on a police corruption Sting. While this is happening, the criminals insist that none of the crime gangs are behind the killings.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I lived in New Orleans for a time.  I love visiting there but living there has its ups and downs; the downs being the horrendous corruption and crime.  That was a long time ago but nothing's really changed.  Having this film set there (it was originally set in Chicago) is a huge plus.  The city oozes with character and it's unlike any other large American city.  That's one of the good things about this thriller that I would recommend watching it for.  Another is Dennis Quaid's performance as Remy, one of every crooked cop in the picture.  His accent is pretty damn good but there's a good chunk of actors in this thing that sound like their in a cartoon.  Some of the accents are laughably bad and I found it distracting.  But then I'm a stickler for getting Southern accents right.  John Goodman and Ned Beatty are always fun to watch.  As a thriller goes, it hits all of the right beats in storytelling and tension building to get us where we need to go.  I liked having Remy and Anne (Barkin) on opposite ends of the law in the trial halfway into the film.  That threw a monkey wrench into their relationship and the buildup to the ending was good despite the typical ending with everything tying up a little too neatly.  I would have given it a 7 out of 10 if it weren't for the outrageously poor accents from some of the cast.  Rather than watch this again I'll just drive the three and a half hours to NO and spend the day soaking up the atmosphere. The Trimark DVD has a non-anamorphic widescreen print and the extras include...well fuck.  The flipside of the disc doesn't work. Take a trip to New Orleans instead and try not to get shot.