Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Parker (2013)

Director: Taylor Hackford

Writers: John J. McLaughlin, Donald E. Westlake

Composer: David Buckley

Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins Jr., Bobby Cannavale, Patti LuPone, Carlos Carrasco, Micah Hauptman, Emma Booth, Nick Nolte

More info: IMDb

Tagline: To get away clean, you have to play dirty.

Plot: A thief with a unique code of professional ethics is double-crossed by his crew and left for dead. Assuming a new disguise and forming an unlikely alliance with a woman on the inside, he looks to hijack the score of the crew's latest heist.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  I think so.

I watched this on Netflix two and a half years ago and I'm slowly trying to catch up on my posting.  Jesus I'm so fucking behind.  Watching the trailer, a lot of it looks familiar.  I remember liking Chiklis in a bad guy role, Statham is fun as usual and I recall liking the movie but that's it.  It's no longer on Netflix so I've got nothing to jog my memory and it sucks.  I reckon someday I'll give it another shot.  Filming in New Orleans and coastal Florida is usually a plus.  Then, on the other hand, maybe because I don't remember much about it says something too.  Shitballs.

Vernon, Florida (1981)

Director: Errol Morris

Composer: Claude Register

Starring: Albert Bitterling, Roscoe Collins, George Harris, Joe Payne, Howard Pettis, Claude Register, Snake Reynolds, Henry Shipes

More info: IMDb

Plot: Early Errol Morris documentary intersplices random chatter he captured on film of the genuinely eccentric residents of Vernon, Florida. A few examples? The preacher giving a sermon on the definition of the word "Therefore," and the obsessive turkey hunter who speaks reverentially of the "gobblers" he likes to track down and kill.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

In Errol Morris' second film he basically turns his camera on some folks living in a small Florida town and lets them talk about themselves.  Anyone who has lived in and around small rural towns like Vernon will recognize these people.  Their personalities are all over these towns.  Hell, just come to one of my family reunions and you'll meet some of them.  You might look at these people and want to make fun of them.  I get it.  I've done it but when you've grown up around people like this you have a different perspective.  They're still nutty, though.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The X from Outer Space (1967)

Original title: Uchu Daikaiju Girara

Director: Kazui Nihonmatsu

Writers: Moriyoshi Ishida, Eibi Motomochi, Kazui Nihonmatsu

Composer: Taku Izumi

Starring: Eiji Okada, Shun'ya Wazaki, Itoko Harada, Peggy Neal, Franz Gruber, Mike Daneen, Shin'ichi Yanagisawa, Keisuke Soni

More info: IMDb

Tagline: What Is This Monstrous THING?

Plot: The spaceship AAB-Gamma is dispatched from FAFC headquarters in Japan to make a landing on the planet Mars and investigate reports of UFOs in the area. As they near the red planet, they encounter a mysterious UFO that coats the ship's hull with unusual spores. Taking one of the specimens back to earth, it soon develops and grows into a giant chicken-lizard-alien monster that tramples Japan.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Giant monster movies from Japan with a man in a rubber suit usually sound like fun until you force yourself to watch them from start to finish.  The monster action destroying cities, tanks, planes et al is the best part.  The human crap is just filler, killing time to get to the monster action.  This one's not much different except it benefits from have a lot of outer space stuff at the beginning.  The model work is cool. Most people would find it corny but I've got a soft spot for that stuff.  The music for this picture is uncharacteristically groovy.  It's so different than the usual fare you'd think it wouldn't work but I liked it because of that.  The English dub was good so there's that.  These types of movies were such a part of my childhood growing up in the 70s when they were only shown on TV with an English dub that I prefer seeing these goofy movies with that.  Nostalgia is a helluva thing.

Paul Williams Still Alive (2011)

Director: Stephen Kessler

Writer: Stephen Kessler

Starring: Paul Williams, Colin Reboy, Stephen Kessler

More info: IMDb

Plot: A documentary about legendary songwriter and 70's icon Paul Williams.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Am I the only one who thinks the title is kind of insulting?  Well, being a lifelong fan of Williams from his music, his funny appearances with Johnny Carson and his hilarious role in SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977) I enjoyed the walk down memory lane and catching up with Williams and seeing the guy doing what he wants.  The problem is that this is more about the director's fondness for Williams and wanting to befriend him than the other stuff.  It's borderline obsessive.  Williams was annoyed by it ans so was I.  Kessler was persistent and after a few years Williams let him get closer.  It's a weird film but there's some entertainment value if you stick with it. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Homefront (2013)

Director: Gary Fleder

Writers: Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Logan

Composer: Mark Isham

Starring: Jason Statham, James Franco, Izabela Vidovic, Kate Bosworth, Marcus Hester, Clancy Brown, Winona Ryder

More info: IMDb

Tagline: How far would you go to protect your home?

Plot: Phil Broker has had enough of the demanding duties of a DEA agent. He brings his young daughter to a small town, looking for a quiet life. But people in this town, as he learns, don't easily forgive any past transgressions-- such as when his daughter fights off a bully at school. This attracts the wrath of the bully's uncle, a meth cooker and dealer, and his gang. Things become dicier when people involved in the last major bust he participated in, track him to the small town.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It looks good I guess.  I've never disliked a Statham performance.  He tends to play the same type of tough guy role but I really dig what he brings to it.  He kicks a lot of ass and that's satisfying.  James Franco seems too cleaned up in his role.  I'd rather have someone more menacing and outright dangerous as Gator.  It's a decent action revenge flick but don't go out of your way to see it unless you're a Statham completist like me.

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Director: Errol Morris

Writer: Errol Morris

Composer: Philip Morris

Starring: Randall Adams, David Harris, Gus Rose, Jackie Johnson, Marshall Touchton, Dale Holt, Sam Kittrell

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A softcore movie, Dr. Death, a chocolate milkshake, a nosey blonde and "The Carol Burnett Show." Solving this mystery is going to be murder.

Plot: A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Randall Adams was convicted of murdering a police officer in Dallas, TX in 1976, a murder he did not commit.  This is Texas, dealing with a corrupt police force, a faulty system and a District Attorney prosecuting Adams who is notoriously known for wanting the death penalty.  I can't believe it's been nearly thirty years since its release that I finally get around to this.  It made a big splash when it came it.  It's very good.  It grabs you by the short and curlies from the start and doesn't let go.  Philip Glass's score underlies the gravity of the story to make it almost soothing.  It's a must for true crime fans but you've probably already seen it. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Snowpiercer (2013)

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Writers: Bong Joon Ho, Kelly Masterson, Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, Jean-Marc Rochette

Composer: Marco Beltrami

Starring: Chris Evans, Song Kang Ho, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner, Ko Ah-Sung

More info: IMDb

Tagline: AD 2031: the passengers in the train are the only survivors on Earth.

Plot: Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

It's a weird, if not completely ridiculous and silly, premise but it's a fun action flick with some neat set pieces.  I liked it enough but not like it the rest of the planet who's gone gaga over it.  The performances were good and there's some great, violent action in close quarters but there were so many cars go pass through to get to the end, like a linear video game, that I was ready for the big bad boss at the end.  Maybe I was down in the dumps or something when I saw it because everyone else I know went apeshit over it.  I'll watch it again someday.  It didn't help that by the time I saw this the years of hype was off the charts.

Desperado (1995)

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Writer: Robert Rodriguez

Composer: Los Lobos

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Joaquim de Almeida, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi, Carlos Gomez, Quentin Tarantino, Tito Larriva, Angel Aviles, Danny Trejo

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He came back to settle the score with someone. Anyone. EVERYONE.

Plot: A gunslinger is embroiled in a war with a local drug runner.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

This is Robert Rodriguez's big screen follow-up to his breakout smash, EL MARIACHI (1992).  It's part remake and part sequel but with a budget and some familiar names and faces in the cast.  Like his other work, it's fun.  It suffers from a little drag here and there around the 2/3 mark but it's not going to get in the way of a very fun ride with Mexico's newest action hero, El Mariachi!  The characters are fun, the acting is right where it needs to be and the humor is a hoot.  It also appears that everyone involved with this picture had a blast making it.  It's that kind of action movie. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Forensic Firsts (2012) TV series

Starring: Erik Thompson

More info: IMDb

Plot: DNA Profiling. Toxicology. Ballistics. Today's criminal investigators employ powerful scientific tools to catch bad guys. But where did they come from and how do they really work?

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

This is similar to the excellent show, THE FORENSIC FILES, but it focuses on crimes that had a significant impact in future investigations.  It's good like FF but it's not as compelling.  It doesn't try to be.  It spends less time on the crimes and more time on the forensic process and the challenges that were faced.  And this show didn't only tackle serial killers or crimes of murder.  It touched on other types of crimes that forensics played a major role in solving.  For forensic nuts like me this is pure candy.  It only ran for two seasons with a total of thirteen one hour episodes.

Mindhunter (2017) TV series

Creator: Joe Penhall

Directors: David Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, Tobias Lindholm

Composer: Jason Hill

Starring: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Hannah Gross, Sonny Valicenti, Anna Torv, Cotter Smith, Cameron Britton

More info: IMDb

Plot: In the late 1970s two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and getting uneasily close to all-too-real monsters.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes!!!

I'm fascinated with serial killers and the men and women who solve their crimes with equal attraction.  Years ago I read John Douglas's book Mindhunter about how he and others formed the Behavioral Science Division of the FBI beginning in the 1970s.  It's an incredible read.  This show is somewhat based on his book.  It's been a while since I read it and with my memory I need to revisit it, particularly since I've seen the first season so I can compare the two.  I recognize some of what the show does from the book.  Before I get into what I dig about the show, there's one thing that bugs me a little and that's the dark grading of the picture.  I'm going to assume that they're doing it this way to fill the show with a dark sense of gloom.  It's not a pretty subject trying to get into the minds of these killers but the overall shading of the show seems a bit much.

Now, the good stuff.  The acting is stellar.  They all do a wonderful job but the standout for me is Holt McCallany as Bill Tench.  Wow!  Where did this guy come from?  I've seen very little of his work but he's on my radar now.  I LOVE his character.  What's more than the good performances is that they also work very well together and they all have interesting looks that match their roles to a 'T'.  Cameron Britton, who plays Ed Kemper, is spot-fucking-on!  When I saw the trailer I about lost most shit when he showed up.  The score works well, the look of the period, the small doses of humor without feeling out of place or shoe-horned in, the cars - it all works.  It's a compelling, true crime thriller that builds and builds to a great season finale.  At only eleven episodes it feels far too short.  I don't want to stop watching these people do what they do.  David Fincher is one of the producers and he wants this show to continue for five more seasons.  Netflix ordered seasons two before the first one aired.  Goody.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Odd Couple (1979)

Original title: Bo Ming Chan Dao Duo Ming Qiang

Director: Chia Yung Liu

Writers: Raymond Bak-Ming Wong, Raymond C. Lai

Composer: Frankie Chan

Starring: Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Ka-Yan Leung, Chia Yung Liu, Lung Chan, Fat Chung, Ha Huang, Ching-Ying Lam

More info: IMDb

Plot: The titular 'Odd Couple' are Sammo (King of Sabres) and Lau Kar Wing (King of Spears). They compete regularly against each other but every encounter results in a draw! Both decide to recruit young pupils and train them up. The late entry of the real villain, the smoldering Laughing Bandit who sports a big scar, has an even bigger grudge against the Kings of Sabres and Spear.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  Oh, hell no.

That recent trailer above makes this look like art compared to the actual film.  What it fails to show is the utter Saturday morning cartoon characters and slapstick nature of just about the whole movie.  The extensive comedy is aimed at very small children.  It's just awful.  The Three Stooges had more class than this.  The English dub makes it worse.  The voices are whiny, nasally, and mostly high pitched.  And it's obvious that this dub track was made in the 90s as there's a fucking Spice Girls reference of all things.  But it's not the voice actors that make this so bad...

See what I mean?  It's extremely rare that I turn a movie off and never finish.  I wanted to on this so badly it was a mental exercise to keep it going.  I at least watched this while working on other things but it was in front of me the whole time.  I do have something good to say and that's the fight choreography is very good.  The final battle with the baddie is fantastic and gravely serious.  Skip to the last twenty minutes if you don't want the goofy, cartoony face bullshit. 

Big Mouth (2017) TV series

Creator: Nick Kroll

Composer: Mark Rivers

Starring: Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Fred Armisen, Jessi Klein, Jason Mantzoukas, Jordan Peele, Maya Rudolph, Jenny Slate, Andrew Rannells, Paula Pell, Leah Birch, Kat Dennings, Richard Kind, Kristen Bell, Kristen Wiig

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Coming of age all over the place.

Plot: Teenage friends find their lives upended by the wonders and horrors of puberty.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Hilarious.  I wasn't totally committed to staying with this until the second episode and when the talking vagina showed up in episode five I knew there was no going back.  I'm hooked until the very end of the series.  I love all of the characters for all of their different reasons.  The hormone monsters (male and female) are boner-crushingly hilarious.  This Netflix show is very self aware and has fun with itself, sometimes breaking the fourth wall.  It's filthy, raunchy and fucking fantastic.  The only thing that sucks is I didn't know there were only ten episodes when the last one ended.  I was a broken man.  I sincerely hope it doesn't take a year to get season two and I hope there are more episodes.  This show is a refreshing breath of fresh air.  This is that wonderful kind of outrageous where the jokes are firing on all cylinders and they land hard and fucking funny. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Interrupted Melody (1955)

Director: Curtis Bernhardt

Writers: William Ludwig, Sonya Levien

Composer: Alexander Courage, Adolph Deutsch

Starring: Glenn Ford, Eleanor Parker, Roger Moore, Cecil Kellaway, Peter Leeds, Evelyn Ellis, Walter Baldwin, Ann Codee, Leopold Sachse, Stephen Bekassy, Stuart Whitman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The greatest musical drama of all time!

Plot: Biopic of Australian star Marjorie Lawrence , who took the opera world by storm and made a remarkable comeback after being crippled by polio, with the help of her devoted husband, Dr. Tim King. Starting out by singing to crippled servicemen, like herself confined to wheelchairs, she builds a new career.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

What happened to Eleanor Parker's career?  I love that broad.  Why wasn't she an A-lister or if she was, why was it so brief and what happened?  She's wonderful.  Well, this picture got me choked up in a few places and it's from a combination of a well made film that knows what buttons to push and when combined with my having a cold.  The performances are solid, there's lots of beautiful music and operatic set pieces and the last fifteen minutes is an emotional home run.  It's neat seeing Stuart Whitman in a walk on role as a guy who hits on Marjorie (Parker) at the beach.  And even though I love Roger Moore, he's being Roger Moore and not even trying to speak with an Australian accent, where his character is from.  That's just being nitpicky on my part.  It's still neat to see him in anything. 

WUSA (1970)

Director: Stuart Rosenberg

Writer: Robert Stone

Composer: Lalo Schifrin

Starring: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Laurence Harvey, Pat Hingle, Don Gordon, Michael Anderson Jr., Leigh French, Bruce Cabot, Cloris Leachman, Moses Gunn, Wayne Rogers, Robert Quarry, Skip Young, Clifton James, Lucille Benson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Love it or leave it

Plot: A radio station in the Deep South becomes the focal point of a right-wing conspiracy.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I didn't know anything about this except that it starred Newman, Woodward and Perkins.  The cast does a fine job, especially Pat Hingle who plays the bastard that runs the radio station.  He's almost too good at it.  He's very menacing.  You get to hang out in New Orleans quite a bit and that's always a good thing.  It's such a wonderfully rich city in its people and architecture.  I wish more movies were centered there.  Perkins initially seems miscast but he owns it in a great confrontation with Wayne Rogers.  Terrific.  The story drags a little.  That's not cool considering the talent.  It takes a long time before we get to the meat of the plot or at least the dirty dealing that ultimately brings this thing to a head.  The rally near the end was just a giant mess of sound.  Nothing but cacophony.  It might've been designed that way but the copy I watched had the sound messed up.  The music or sound effects often overpowered the dialogue which had my finger constantly on the volume button.  The ending is dreary.  I was left thinking that the focus was misplaced that there should've been more of a buildup instead needle dropping into these people's lives and scratching the record trying to get to the next song if that makes any sense. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Winnebago Man (2009)

Director: Ben Steinbauer

Writers: Malcolm Pullinger, Ben Steinbauer

Composers: William Anderson, Lyman Hardy, Andrew Hoke, Taylor Holland

Starring: Jack Rebney, Ben Steinbauer, Keith Gordon, Nick Prueher, Joe Pickett, Douglas Rushkoff, Charlie Sotelo, Cinco Barnes, Alan Berliner, Mike Mitchell, Alexsey Vayner

More info: IMDb

Plot: Jack Rebney is the most famous man you've never heard of - after cursing his way through a Winnebago sales video, Rebney's outrageously funny outtakes became an underground sensation and made him an internet superstar. Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer journeys to the top of a mountain to find the recluse who unwittingly became the "Winnebago Man."

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I hadn't heard of the Winnebago Man until this movie came out and that's when I became a fan of Jack Rebney.  Think of a more pissed off Dabney Coleman or Gerald McRaney.   His off the rails tirades are hilarious.  This picture introduces us to the Winnebago Man video and talks about the internet phenomena he became.  It's about a half hour in that we get to meet the guy first hand.  His reluctance makes it even more special.  It feels like Jack is carefully trying to control the narrative.  You're not sure sometimes when he's truthful or not and he has a tendency to change his mood.  At least that's how it's shown.  He flip flops frequently on wanting to participate.  Something has happened to him that we eventually discover that makes him a lot more sympathetic.  He still comes across as a grumpy ass old man but he also seems to finally relax and let his guard down...a little.  I kind of felt for the guy but then who am I feeling for, Jack Rebney or the Jack Rebney he's portraying.  It's a great documentary about an unsuspecting internet star.  I've always felt like documentaries aren't really made until long after the filming is complete.  Life has a way of creating stories under our noses, not allowing us to see them until we step back and take it all in.  This must've been true for the filmmakers.

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

Director: Dan Curtis

Writers: William F. Nolan, Richard Matheson

Composer: Bob Cobert

Starring: Karen Black, Robert Burton, John Karlen, George Gaynes, Jim Storm, Gregory Harrison, Kathryn Reynolds, Tracy Curtis, Orin Cannon, Walker Edmiston

More info: IMDb

Tagline: An electrifying experience - you won't believe your eyes!

Plot: Three horror anthology stories of tormented women. In the first story, Julie Eldridge is a sexually-repressed college teacher who is blackmailed by one of her students for a past indiscretion in which she played an unwilling part. But the student is unaware that Julie plots to turn the tables on him the first chance she gets. In the second story, Millicent Larimore is a plain-looking, almost reclusive woman who lives with her amoral twin sister Therese whom delights in tormenting her. However, only their doctor who visits from time to time knows the real thing behind the scene. In the final story, Amelia in a solo horror story monologue is a mother-dominated woman who buys an African Zuni fetish doll for her latest boyfriend in which the doll comes to life and terrorizes her in her own apartment.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

If there's only one thing that you might know about this, even without having seen it, it's this little fella...

That's just your friendly neighborhood Zuni fetish doll.  This TV movie was directed by Dan "DARK SHADOWS (1966)" Curtis and co-written by the great Richard Matheson who is best known for his wonderful work on THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1959) and many wonderful sci-fi/horror pictures of the 60s and beyond. 

Julie - The story that opens the picture is good but it's the ending that makes it.  No spoilers here.  It's an admirable opener.

Millicent and Therese - This one is rather slow but it's got a nice ending.  I don't know what they could've done to spice things up to make it more interesting but think of this one as the calm before the storm because the third and final story is a doozie. 

Amelia - this is what folks remember most about this telefilm.  The doll is freaky as shit, not to mention pretty damn terrifying.  They made great use of camera angles, low to the flow handheld cameras, sounds and editing.  It's got a nice ending, too.

I imagine that if you saw this when it originally aired, the Zuni doll was what everyone was talking about the next day.   Overall, it's a good anthology.  The weakest of the stories is in the middle and I can see skipping that one when I watch it again someday.  Karen Allen does a great job in all three tales.  She's a lot of fun.  Curtis resurrected the idea for the sequel TV movie twenty years later.  I don't think I've seen it but it's got Geoffrey Lewis in it so that might be enough for me to check it out.

Monday, December 4, 2017

G.B.H. (1991) TV series

Director: Robert Young

Writer: Alan Bleasdale

Composers: Elvis Costello, Richard Harvey

Starring: Robert Lindsay, Michael Palin, Dearbhla Molloy, Alan Igbon, Andrew Schofield, Philip Whitchurch, Julie Walters, Paul Oldham, Tom Georgeson, Peter-Hugo Daly, Jane Danson, Lindsay Duncan, Edward Mallon, Hayley Fairclough, Stephen Hall, Paul Butterworth, Peter Armitage

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A savage indictment of power.

Plot: Michael Murray is an ambitious and charismatic politician, Jim Nelson is a much loved headmaster of a local school for disturbed children. When the paths of these two men cross, things are destined never to be the same again.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I only wanted to see this because it starred Michael Palin.  It's highly rated and all but JESUS FUCK!  It's 9 and a half hours long!!!!  Put that into your pipe and smoke it!  Each episode of this series is about an hour and twenty minutes long and there are seven of them.  Now, the first episode moves along OK until the final half hour where it very intense.  Now I'm completely on board.  Whatever feelings I had about giving up were gone.  It was such a powerful half hour that there was no way I wasn't going to see this through.  The next couple of episodes weren't nearly as captivating but they did hold my interest.  The two leads, Lindsay and Palin, are magnificent.  The series is mostly about political intrigue but there's more to it than that.  It's mostly serious but as each episode played, it got surprisingly funny to the point that episode 4 is loaded with slapstick comedy.  At first I thought it was too much but seeing Lindsay running around the hotel with his hand thrusting in the air along with his eye tick (these things happen to him when he gets too nervous) feels like something out of a FAWLTY TOWERS (1975) episode and not this.  I ended up laughing a lot before that episode was over.

Then with episode 5 the silliness continued but scaled back a lot until at least episodes 6 and 7 things were back to political intrigue territory and became gravely serious and delivers a satisfying finale, tying up any loose ends the major players have.  The tone is all over the place.  The comedy only sometimes works but at times it feels unnecessary and awkward.  More than a few scenes go on for too long, give too much information or flesh out characters that don't matter one bit to the main characters.  Jim's (Palin) poet friend Martin, for example, is a character that I loved and I dug his storyline and arc.  However, it didn't seem to have anything to do with the major threads of the overall story.  His bits could've been taken out completely and would've had little to no effect on the series.  There's enough of that kind of thing that you could probably lose an episode or two.  I would've also preferred that the film, if we can call it that, didn't stray so much into silly territory and stayed closer to the more serious aspects that these two men are embroiled in.  It's still a good watch and it's a good look at how politics is played but it could've been better.  I'm also writing this right after finishing a two day binge from start to finish so I've barely allowed myself time to let it all sink in.  Plus I'm nursing a cold but I won't hold that against the Labor Party.

The Thief of Baghdad (1978)

Director: Clive Donner

Writers: Andrew Birkin, AJ Carothers

Composer: John Cameron

Starring: Roddy McDowall, Kabir Bedi, Frank Finlay, Marina Vlady, Pavla Ustinov, Daniel Emilfork, Ian Holm, Terence Stamp, Peter Ustinov, Marina Sirtis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Ride the Magic Carpet into an Arabian Nights wonder-world, re-created in the splendor of magik-motion!

Plot: A resourceful thief helps a handsome Prince fight an evil wizard, and win the hand of a beautiful Princess.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again? No.

This is oh so dreadfully boring.  The effects are what you'd expect for late 70s TV and they don't hold up.  It's not their fault, I know, but it's hard to watch.  The cast puts in a good effort but the pacing kills it.  It's an exercise in patience at an hour and forty-two minutes in length.  It feels more than twice that.  The film music nerd that I am, Cameron's score was hard on my ears.  The main theme is so generic that it sounds like it was written by a novice.  To make matters worse, it's repeated ad nauseam whenever there's a need for a heroic action cue.  I couldn't even recommend this to fans of McDowell and Ustinov (both of which I'm a big fan of and the only reason I watched this).  Oddly, co-writer Birkin went on to write some great stuff like THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986), THE MESSENGER: THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC (1999) and PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER (2006). 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Last Chase (1981)

Director: Martyn Burke

Writers: Christopher Crowe, Roy Moore, Martyn Burke

Composer: Gil Melle

Starring: Lee Majors, Burgess Meredith, Chris Makepeace, Alexandra Stewart, Diane D'Aquila, George Touliatos, Harvey Atkin

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The oil finally ran out... and somewhere in the future, the chase has begun.

Plot: In a future United States, the only transport available to an individual is public transportation. Predicated on an assertion that "the oil has run out", an increasingly totalitarian central government has ordered all personal vehicles be impounded by law. One man, a former race car driver, yearns again for his ability to choose his own roads and destiny. He reassembles his race car hidden from confiscation, and sets out for "Free California" which has broken away from the new regime, aided by a young technically savvy teen who feels alienated from this "social" society. Agents of the new government must stop this man at any cost to destroy the symbology he represents, and the instability that such a desire for personal autonomy could mean to the society. An old Korean War veteran and his F-86 Sabre jet are called into service to chase down this dangerous man, and end his flouting of the will of the state. In the words of one of the government agents, "People going where they want to, where they want to. This could set us back to the 1980s."

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

As I watched this and after, I assumed without question that this was a made for TV movie.  There was nothing in it that suggested this was a theatrical release.  The production values alone betrayed it.  It's cheap with little left than the acting and story to save it.  I only watched it because of Majors and Meredith.  It's an OK picture.  Spending time with Lee Majors was fun and seeing Burgess Meredith piloting a jet is odd on its own.  The stuff I dug most was probably the first third of the movie before Majors escapes with the car.  That's the stuff of sci-fi-ishness that was more interesting than trying to survive alone "out there" in the wilderness.  The ending is ho-hum and as expected. 

Chandler (1971)

Director: Paul Magwood

Writers: Paul Magwood, John Sacret Young

Composer: George Romanis

Starring: Warren Oates, Leslie Caron, Alex Dreier, Mitchell Ryan, Gordon Pinsent, Charles McGraw, Richard Loo, Gloria Grahame, Royal Dano, Walter Burke, Marianne McAndrew, Scatman Crothers, John Mitchum, James Sikking

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Chandler is a private eye. It's a hard way to make a living... and an easy way to die.

Plot: A hardboiled aging private eye is hired to find and protect a missing government witness sought after by the gangsters. The witness is a beautiful French woman and even the cops can't be trusted. The case is tough, but so is Chandler.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I can see why this has such a low IMDb rating...it's boring, very, very boring.  Rumor has it the studio re-edited the film after Magwood made his cut and Magwood said they essentially butchered it.  Now if I could see his cut now I'd give it another chance.  As it is, it's not worth watching.  I'm a big Warren Oates fan and I can't even recommend this for like-minded fans.  He's such a downer in this picture that it's one of many problems the film has.  His character cares so little it's easy to feel the same way.  The movie is shot with soft focus, the score is dreary, the story is slow and plodding and so on.  It took a couple of attempts to get through this and both times I was struggling with sleep...because of the movie not because of outside circumstances.  The ending is bleak but I didn't care by then what happens to who.  Ugh.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The 300 Spartans (1962)

Director: Rudolph Mate

Writers: George St. George, Ugo Liberatore, Remigio Del Grosso, Giovanni d'Eramo, Gian Paolo Callegari

Composer: Manos Hatzidakis

Starring: Richard Egan, Ralph Richardson, Diane Baker, Barry Coe, David Farrar, Donald Houston, Anna Synodinou, Kieron Moore, John Crawford, Robert Brown, Laurence Naismith

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Thermopylae... mighty battle epic of a handful of men forming the invincible "flying wedge" - against a killer horde five million strong!

Plot: A small army of Greeks spearheaded by 300 Spartans do battle with the whole invading Persian army.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I love a good ancient history epic with great outdoor locations, lavish indoor sets, brilliant colored costumes, action, adventure, intrigue and so on.  This one covers those bases.  Most of the action is reserved for the final half hour but it's a good watch until then.  The acting is swell and all but I really dig the outdoor scenery.  It helps so much in selling the action and drama.  Sometimes I'm just that easy to please.  Watching this reminds me that I haven't seen 300 (2006) since it came out and the Blu-ray has been on my shelf for years.

The Young Lions (1958)

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Writers: Irwin Shaw, Edward Anhalt

Composer: Hugo Friedhofer

Starring: Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Dean Martin, Hope Lange, Barbara Rush, May Britt, Maximilian Schell, Dora Doll, Lee Van Cleef, L.Q. Jones, Gordon Mitchell

More info: IMDb


Plot: The destiny of three soldiers during World War II. The German officer Christian Diestl approves less and less of the war. Jewish-American Noah Ackerman deals with antisemitism at home and in the army while entertainer Michael Whiteacre transforms from playboy to hero.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I first saw this more than twenty years ago and I remember that I liked Martin, I liked Brando's character arc and I didn't like Clift at all.  Now that I've seen it again, I feel the same way.  Martin's got charisma in spades and he was well cast to add some charm and happy go lucky but grounded humor.  Brando with bright blonde hair makes for a great looking German officer.  Then there's Clift who offers up the mental and emotional struggles of a soldier but he's got the added weight of representing today's youth who don't want to fight and he has hopes and dreams beyond what he's forced into.  He also constantly looks like he's in pain and that he's carrying the weight of the world. This also has him looking like he's trying to hard to act.  Martin and Brando make it look so easy.  It's a good story, following these guys around, but it's easy to grow tired of the Noah Ackerman (Clift) thread as his drama slow the picture down.  The movie's almost three hours long and it's short on action.  I liked the ending where the three characters we've been following merge.  That's a powerful moment.  The 20th Century Fox DVD looks fantastic in anamorphic widescreen.  For extras, you get a lousy trailer for 20th Century Fox war pictures, the theatrical trailer for this film (anamorphic widescreen) and more trailers.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Telephone Book (1971)

Director: Nelson Lyon

Writer: Nelson Lyon

Composer: Nathan Sassover

Starring: Sarah Kennedy, Norman Rose, James Harder, Jill Clayburgh, Ondine, Barry Morse, Ultra Violet, Geri Miller, Roger C. Carmel, William Hickey, Matthew Tobin, Jan Farrand, David Dozer, Lucy Lee Flippin, Dolph Sweet, Joan Ziehl, Margaret Brewster, Captain Haggerty, Marlene Willoughby

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  The story of a girl who falls in love with the world's greatest obscene phone call.

Plot:  The story of a day in the life of a lonely, sensitive, exhuberent, attractive, young woman. Her exploits, encounters, and frustrations as she attempts to find a "special" someone, a caller who has "class", as she puts it.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

You need to see this.  It's bonkers in only a way that was of the time it was made.  It's hilarious arthouse perversion that probably exists for some higher purpose but for the viewer it doesn't matter.  The strangeness of the trailer is exactly what the film delivers.  It's almost a surreal meditation on the norms of sexuality.  It pokes fun at sex and has fun with it.  I'll never look at Barry Morse the same way again.  I didn't even recognize him as the world's greatest stag film star. 

That's position 72, by the way.  If you don't recognize the names Dolph Sweet, Roger C. Carmel and William Hickey then you'll surely recognize their faces instantly.  This is a well-made underground picture that knows exactly what its doing and it knows exactly where its tongue is.

My Friends Need Killing (1976)

Director: Paul Leder

Writer: Paul Leder

Composer: Mark Bucci

Starring: Greg Mullavey, Meredith MacRae, Clayton Wilcox, Carolyn Ames, Roger Cruz, Elaine Partnow, Laurie Burton, Bill Michael, Savannah Bentley, Eric Morris, Karl Ellis, Geraldine Leder, Gary Lee Marshall, Damian Kaner

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Where does Vietnam end and the killing begin?

Plot:  A Vietnam veteran can't escape the horrors of war so he sets out to kill four men he served with.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This has a great title, right?  The film, despite the exploitative title, focuses more on the psychological/dramatic angle but Gene (Mullavey) does rack up an impressive body count.  His 'friends' are his four Vietnam vet buddies and then there's the collateral damage with their spouses.  From the first few minutes you get an idea for what your in for as far as acting, budget and production values go but it's oddly compelling and it did a good job of holding my attention to the end and it cleans up nicely.  The kills aren't noteworthy but they do vary.  It's probably worth a watch depending on your tolerance for low-to-no budget pictures of this ilk.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Rats: Night of Terror (1984)

Original title: Rats - Notte di Terrore

Director: Bruno Mattei

Writers: Claudio Fragasso, Bruno Mattei, Herve Piccini

Composer: Luigi Ceccarelli

Starring: Ottaviano Dell'Acqua, Geretta Geretta, Massimo Vanni, Gianni Franco, Ann-Gisel Glass, Jean-Christophe Bretigniere, Fausto Lombardi

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Mutants of a nuclear disaster

Plot: In a post-apocalyptic Earth, a group of punk friends find themselves against millions of bloodthirsty rats - but the weirdest it yet to come.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The Italians of the 1980s sure loved their post-apocalyptic pictures, didn't they?  So what makes this different than the others?  It takes place in 225 AB (After the Bomb) and it's got rats.  Lots of them and they're everywhere!

The movie's OK.  Instead of the usual factions of humans fighting each other in a bombed-out city it's small group of humans encountering a metric shit-ton of rats.  I guess you might dig it if you masturbate to WILLARD (1971) (and who doesn't?) or if you put your privates underneath the last stage of the Mouse Trap board game.  It's really not that bad of a Ratsploitation picture.  There's a little bit of nudity and gore, cheesy dialogue, mid-budget Italian schlock, post-apocalyptic nonsense and a whole lotta rats being tossed and poured on the poor actors.  The ending is nothing short of HOLY FUCK THAT'S AWESOME!  Look at this as a reasonable group watch with the liquor on tap kind of movie.

Bring 'Em Back Alive (1982) TV series

Creators: Frank Cardea, George Schenck

Composers: Arthur B. Rubinstein, William David Brohn

Starring: Bruce Boxleitner, Clyde Kusatsu, Ron O'Neal, Cindy Morgan, George Cheung, Harvey Jason

More info: IMDb

Plot: Pith-helmeted Buck is a Great White Hunter who here (unlike the real one from the 1940s) works out of the Raffles Hotel bar in Singapore during the 1930s fighting all kinds of bad guys in pre-war Malaya.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah.

When you have a hit movie as big as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), you're bound to have lots of copycats and inspirations.  This show probably wouldn't have happened (along with it's competition, and the better of the two shows, TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY (1982)) without RAIDERS' popularity.  It's not a RAIDERS knock-off but it does share the jungle adventure and serial inspiration.  The series died after 17 episodes and you see how they kind of got better as they went along to the point of having a much better show if they had another season.  There are some fun moments along the way like Frank (Boxleitner) reaching for his gun to shoot someone realizing it's not in its holster.  Then there are the serial cliffhanger moments with a car running off a cliff to explode on impact only to find out after the commercial that Frank and the princess had gotten out before the nose drive, something they conveniently left out until after the commercials.  Watching this as a 13 year old when it aired in '82 was a gas.  I watched this and TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY to get my RAIDERS fix.  I ate this stuff up.  Seeing it 35 years later doesn't much stir up those childhood feelings but it does remind me a little when shows like this were the shit in my eyes.  As an adult I can see the clumsiness of some scenes (particularly the fist fights) and how obvious some things were shot on a studio backlot but it's still fun. 


The acting is fine for what it is.  It's in the style of the serials from the 40s and 50s.  You can easily see at first glance who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.  Ron "Superfly" O'Neil is fun and he gets more adventurous as the shows progressed.  I would've liked to see his character be a quality rival for Frank where they each best each other from time to time.  The list of character actors that came in went is impressive like Walter Koenig, Mako, Jack Gwillim, Elisha Cook Jr., Sid Haig, M.C. Gainey, Richard Lynch, George Lazenby, Richard Anderson, Christopher Connelly and Robert Davi.  Now I just need to find TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY.