Thursday, November 22, 2018

Life (2017)

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Composer: Jon Ekstrand

Starring: Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Fergusson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Olga Dykhovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Be careful what you search for.

Plot: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars and now threatens all life on Earth.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

I remember seeing the trailer early on and thinking it looks like an ALIEN (1979) ripoff.  Now that I've seen it, I can say without doubt that I liked it better when it was called ALIEN (1979).  I gave it the usual suspension of disbelief but it's a stretch.  The big jump in buying into this is that you're to believe a single cell organism from Mars, with the right mixture of oxygen and hydrogen (you know, air) and whatever else causes this thing to grow incredibly fast.  It consumes the only living thing on the space station (a lab rat) before growing even larger and killing and feeding off of the human crew, one by one.  Not only that, it is super intelligent.  Not bad for having such a small start in life and with only hours (perhaps as much as 2-3 days) of growth.  That's the biggest hurdle your thinking brain has to overcome.  It makes it harder still that this takes place in Earth's orbit and it's otherwise more grounded in reality.  Except for the other bullshit like the organism knocking out communication with Earth and the astronauts having to "bypass" or "override" a satellite or some mumbo jumbo typical computer-y bullshit.  You know the kind.  It's an easy out but things don't always work out for these unlucky few.

There is a lot that is derivative of other science fiction horror movies and it only sometimes gets in the way of the storytelling.  As a piece of entertainment, it's pretty good but the weight of the issues above gets in the way sometimes and drags it down.  The thing is the acting is fine, the score, effects, pacing, et al, are done well enough to serve the film.  The problem is in the story.  It's not real enough to be taken seriously but it's also not bad enough to qualify as cheesy popcorn fun.  However, the tail end of the picture was great despite my realizing it earlier than I should've.  It's maybe worth a look but don't get too excited about it. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Troy (2004)

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Writers: Homer, David Benioff

Composer:  James Horner

Starring: Julian Glover, Brian Cox, Brad Pitt, Brendan Gleeson, Diane Kruger, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Julie Christie, Peter O'Toole

More info: IMDb

Tagline: For Honor.  For Victory.  For Love.  For Destiny.  For Passion.  For Troy.

Plot: An adaptation of Homer's great epic, the film follows the assault on Troy by the united Greek forces and chronicles the fates of the men involved.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

When I caught this in the theater in 2004 I wasn't impressed.  I found Bloom to be an annoying prick, Pitt to be dolled up too much like a pretty boy and the female leads were underwritten and performed rather poorly.  Outside of that I liked it OK.  Cut to ten years later and I watched it again only this time it was the director's cut.  Now either for reasons of seeing it again or seeing this different cut, I liked it.  It was more violent than I remember and the major problems I perceived the first time around weren't as bad the second time.  I'm probably not going to watch it again to figure out exactly what it was.  It's a good film with some good action and performances but I think twice is my limit.  There are far too many movies I haven't seen to let this one slip in once more.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Count of Monte Cristo (1934)

Director: Rowland V. Lee

Writers: Alexandre Dumas, Philip Dunne, Dan Totheroh, Rowland V. Lee

Composer: Alfred Newman

Starring: Robert Donat, Elissa Landi, Louis Calhern, Sidney Blackmer, Raymond Walburn, O.P. Heggie, Irene Hervey, Georgia Caine, Walter Walker, Lawrence Grant, Luis Alberni

More info: IMDb

Tagline: An Eye For An Eye...But Three Lives Must Pay For Mine!

Plot:  After greedy men have Edmound Dantes unjustly imprisoned for 20 years for innocently delivering a letter entrusted to him, he escapes to get his revenge on them.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

It's OK.  It's got that stagy quality you'd sometimes get from epics of this era where the acting is sometimes melodramatic to a fault.  The sets and costumes look great, though.  The picture was never dull so it's got that going for it.  It's not a very rousing rendition of the classic Dumas story but I couldn't help but think that if this picture were handled by Warner Bros. instead of United Artists and then putting some better actors in the leads (like Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains), then you'd have a much more enjoyable movie.  Donat does OK but he's not bringing the vigor and charisma I think this character needs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: J.A. Bayona

Writers: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow

Composer: Michael Giacchino

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Jeff Goldblume, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Peter Jason

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Life finds a way.

Plot: When the island's dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen and Claire mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably.

This is just as dumb as JURASSIC WORLD (2015) but it's just as good, too.  Stupid shit happens in this movie that defies screenwriting gymnastics but it doesn't matter.  The dinosaur action is great and it's a lot of fun and that's what this franchise is supposed to be all about.  The first half is on the island and the second half is in Northern California.  There seems to be a lot more dinosaur action in this one than the last one but then it's been three years since I saw that one.  Goldblum isn't in it much but he always brings it so I'll take what I can get.  There's a delicious tease at the end for the next film.  It's too bad that this franchise will never see an 'R' rating.  I'm sure a lot of fans would love to see what they could do with no restrictions.  I'd be upset with myself if I didn't say how great it is to see Ted Levine on the big screen again.  That guy should be in everything.  And one more thing, apparently Claire discovered better shoes to run in. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Dictator (2012)

Director: Larry Charles

Writers: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer

Composer: Erran Baron Cohen

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly, Sayed Badreya

More info: IMDb

Plot: The heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.

My rating: 6.5/10

If you saw the trailer then you got a good deal of the good gags but you MUST see this for the truly outrageously hilarious shit.  I about lost it when Cohen is attached by Busty Heart's massive mammaries.  The scene lasts about two minutes and it's one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. 

As it progresses the fight gets wilder.  There's a spoof of the axe and the door scene from THE SHINING (1980) and if that weren't enough, they even go for a RAGING BULL (1980) reference that had me in tears.  There are about three or so great belly laughs but it's the little gags that suffer.  There aren't that many good ones outside of what you see in the trailer.  I was even often bored which didn't make sense.  This is a silly, raunchy comedy but a lot of the jokes were weak.  It felt like they should've kept working on the script until it was a much tighter and funnier flick.  I'd still recommend it because there are some very funny and clever gags that work well enough to justify the dips in quality.  Ben Kingsley fans will be disappointed as he's in a role that doesn't bring an ounce of funny.  Any number of actors could've done that role as well (or better) as he did and that's not something I thought I'd say about that guy.  However, John C. Riley is fucking hilarious in his brief two minutes.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Grudge Match (2013)

Director: Peter Segal

Writers: Tim Kelleher, Rodney Rothman

Composer: Trevor Rabin

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Kevin Hart, Kim Basinger, Alan Arkin, Jon Bernthal

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A rivalry 30 years in the making.

Plot: A pair of aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout, thirty years after their last match.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I had a little trepidation going in but I shouldn't have been.  It's a fun movie with a good share of comedy, thanks to De Niro and Hart, pleasant drama and emotional weight.  De Niro is great fun and he's full of energy...the opposite of Stallone.  At first I thought Stallone was phoning it in but then he's being true to his character, Henry.  Henry left the game thirty years earlier after fucking up his relationship with the big love of his life.  He walked away from the only two things that mattered to him and he's spent three decades in a blue collar job, living simply and accepting his lot in life.  When he finally does perk up and show some life, it's even more noticeable and effective.  I just wish he hadn't gone too dull for most of the picture.  The story works nicely and the performances are good.  I loved the funny business during the credits with Dante (Hart) and his sales pitches to celebrities.  They're hilarious.  I'd like to see a spinoff with Dante and his over the top shenanigans. Don't listen to the 30% Rotten Tomatoes score.  If you're a fan of any of these people then you'll probably dig it.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)

Director: Stefano Sollima

Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Composer: Hildur Guanadottir

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Matthew Modine, Shea Whigham, Elijah Rodriguez

More info: IMDb

Plot: The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

This sequel to the excellent SICARIO (2015) does it right.  It re-teams some of the main characters and puts them in different situations which tests them and put them in a somewhat different place at the end.  Sure, it sets things up for another movie (goodie) but it does it in a way that shows that writer Sheridan isn't content with telling the same story.  Neither film relies on the other so you can watch either without feeling like you're missing anything.  I really dig the setting.  There's something fresh about it.  Director Sollima (son of Sergio) does a wonderful job in continuing in the sensibility of Villeneuve.  I dig the foreign touch given to both of these films, lending them a faint taste of artistic styling.  There's not as much action as in the first film but there are still plenty of tense moments and they're handled very well.   Del Toro has a bigger role this time and he's just all kinds of great.  Isabela Moner knocks it out of the park, too.  I'm looking forward to watching both of these pictures again as well as the sure-to-happen sequel.  

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sicario (2015)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Composer: Johann Johannsson

Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Max Trujillo, Julio Cesar Cedillo

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The border is just another line to cross.

Plot: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I don't know how this escaped three years ago but thanks to the sequel's trailer getting shown before just about every theatrical film I've seen this year, I had to check it out and boy am I glad I did.   It's brutal in a way that elicits realism.  You get the idea that this is probably how this shit goes down in real life.  I like the professionalism of the characters.  Every main character is very serious and very good at their job.  There's a good deal of action.  The film looks great, the shots are lined up nicely, the overhead tracking shots are a nice touch, the score is great as is all other aspects of the picture.  It's just a damn good action thriller.  An hour after we watched this one we were at the theater for SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO (2018) and it was just as good but in a slightly different way.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Hackers (1995)

Director: Iain Softley

Writer: Rafael Moreu

Composers: Simon Boswell, Guy Pratt

Starring: Johnny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Jesse Bradford, Matthew Lillard, Laurence Mason, Renoly Santiago, Fisher Stevens, Alberta Watson, Lorraine Bracco, Penn Jillette, Felicity Huffman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Hack The Planet!

Plot:  High school computer hackers are blamed for making a virus that will capsize 5 oil tankers.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  Hell, no.

Maybe if I had seen this in '95 I would have a slightly higher opinion of this but I didn't and this is hilariously bad.  I read once that nothing dates a movie more than technology and they must've been thinking about this flick when they came up with that notion.  In this case, it's true.  The first few minutes are so over the top with the graphics, idiotic bullshit computer crap and computer jargon that I couldn't help but bust out laughing.  There are several scenes like that.  A lot of people (and I'm not one of them) probably dig this movie because of Angelina Jolie.  It's her first movie where she has a starring role.  She also shows a little skin...

But then so does this guy...

I was bored for most of the flick.  It's so over the top bad in places but dull in others.  Plus the movie runs an hour and forty five minutes long.  Cut out the boring bits and leave in the bad acting and stupendously corny computer bits and you'd have something to throw on for you and your friends (with lots of booze, of course) to goof on.  The MGM DVD has the film in anamorphic widescreen with the trailer in the same format.  That's all for extras.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bill Cosby: Himself (1983)

Director: Bill Cosby

Writer: Bill Cosby

Starring: Bill Cosby

More info: IMDb

Plot: A concert film in which Bill Cosby discusses weekends, raising children, dentists, and many other situations.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I haven't seen this in over thirty years.  It was funnier then when I was a teenager and Cosby was the number one show on TV.  It's just not as funny as it once was.  His routines are masterfully performed.  They always were.  His stories are amusing and sometimes I laughed but mostly just enjoyed listening to his rhythm and delivery.  That I can admire.  The bit about the dentist is still great.  His stories are clearly exaggerated and they're often so embellished that you can tell he's full of shit except that he's a comedian and his job is to make people laugh for which he excelled.  I was surprised that his closer was as poor as it was which makes me wonder why he chose to end it so abruptly instead of with a calculated bang.  Even though I can separate the art from the artist, it was still a little odd watching this with the knowledge that he is a serial rapist.  Perhaps subconsciously that affected my viewing but I think that my tastes in humor have changed in places, what I once laughed hysterically at 35 years ago, the magic has waned and it's been downgraded to amusing at best. The 20th Century Fox DVD presents the film in both anamorphic widescreen and fullscreen with the sole extra with the fullscreen theatrical trailer.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985)

Original title: Gini Piggu 2: Chiniku no Hana

Director: Hideshi Hino

Writer: Hideshi Hino

Starring: Hiroshi Tamura, Kirara Yugao

More info: IMDb

Plot: A woman walking home late at night is attacked by an unknown assailant who knocks her out with chloroform. When she regains consciousness, she finds herself tied to a bed in a blood- spattered dungeon, at the mercy of a white-faced man in a samurai helmet who wants to turn her into a "flower of blood and flesh." He then proceeds to slowly dismember and disembowel her as the camera records it all.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The picture's only a 43 minutes long and in the first 14, a woman is kidnapped off the street, gagged and tied to a bed, the kidnapper severs the head off a chicken onto her, gives her a shot and prepares to get down to business.  That's a long time to devote to what little setup is needed and it illustrates part of the problem with this movie.  But then again, you don't watch this series for the plot.  It's all about the realistic gore effects.  Meet your host for the evening...

You should check out his Tinder profile.

Our samurai host talks to the audience and assures us that she's going to dig being dismembered so we shouldn't feel bad about it.  Let's dig in, shall we?

Hmmmm.  Well that was...that.  There's still 9 minutes left.  What's left?  Spending 6 minutes glimpsing into his trophy room (of sorts) with probably what amounts to stuff from other films by the filmmakers or things cut from them.  And it finally wraps with 3 minutes of end credits.  So how was it?  Boring.  If you'd asked me in 1985 when I was 16 I would've told you it was fucking awesome.  This uncut version released on DVD by Unearthed Films is the way to go but be warned that quality is that of a dimly lit, shot on video movie.  The pictures here convey how dark it is.  You don't get a good look at how well done the gore is although you can at least see that it was good enough.  That it's slow, not much happens and it's difficult to see the goods is enough to keep me from continuing with any of the other films in the series unless someone gives me a decent recommend on one.  I've know about this series for more than twenty years and now that I finally saw one, I'm disappointed to say the least.  Sometimes notoriety is best appreciated the closer you are to a film's escape unto the world.  The DVD comes with a making of feature which is the exact same length as the movie as well as text interviews with the director, an original F&B manga, gallery, text history of the series and trailers for these two films and for five others in the same vein.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Grand Canyon (1991)

Director: Lawrence Kasdan

Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, Meg Kasdan

Composer: James Newton Howard

Starring: Danny Glover, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Mary McDonnell, Mary-Louise Parker, Alfre Woodard, Jeremy Sisto, Tina Lifford, Patrick Malone, Randle Mell, Sarah Trigger

More info: IMDb

Tagline: In a city on the edge, six people are about to discover something extraordinary...each other.

Plot: Grand Canyon revolved around six residents from different backgrounds whose lives intertwine in modern-day Los Angeles. At the center of the film is the unlikely friendship of two men from different races and classes brought together when one finds himself in jeopardy in the other's rough neighborhood.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The cast is great.  You can't go wrong with Glover, Kline, Martin, etc..  Kasdan's direction is good as are the other technical aspects but there's no getting around how the picture feels from the story's standpoint and how it's handled.  Now the opening 17 minutes that takes up through the end of Mack's (Kline) car breaking down in a rough part of L.A. where he meets Simon (Glover) has some good tension and it's a great way for these two characters to meet and it makes it easy to see why Mack needs to get to know Simon on a personal level.  The story goes places that aren't so bad but when I was finished with the film I didn't feel the emotional punch the picture was going for.  Then it hit me.  This is a film about race from a rich, white man's perspective living in Hollywood and it's written and directed by a white man who works and (probably) lives in Hollywood.  So I gathered that the target audience for this, where it would play most effectively, is rich, white people living in Hollywood (or more simply, rich, white people).  Then it made perfect sense.  That's not to say that you have to be in that demographic to enjoy it but I think that you'd largely have to be in order to get the most from this picture.  The 20th Century Fox DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen and the extras you get are the theatrical trailer (also anamorphic widescreen), a 6 minute featurette (fullscreen) and trailer for five other films that you might like since you're watching this movie.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Upgrade (2018)

Director: Leigh Whannell

Writer: Leigh Whannell

Composer: Jed Palmer

Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel, Harrison Gilbertson, Benedict Hardie, Simon Maiden, Michael M. Foster

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Not Man. Not Machine. More.

Plot: Set in the near-future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when Grey, a self-identified technophobe, has his world turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again?  YES!

WOW!  I knew nothing except the basic plot and that's it.  I didn't even see the trailer.  I'm blown away.  It's smart science fiction that feels real enough to buy into hook, line and sinker but it's also hilarious in strange, sometimes dark ways.  But then it also has plenty of action.  And the ending?  Holy fucking shit was I strangely emotionally wrapped up in it.  It's brilliant.  I was so worried throughout the film that the ending was going to let me down but there's a point in the last act where I had the confidence of the filmmaker that it wouldn't and it delivered in spades.  There is so much about this picture that I love and I can't wait to see it again.  And it was a rare theater experience, too, as there were only about ten people there but not one person said a word the entire time.  That was just icing on the cake.  There are several scenes where the score was absent which gave the visuals room to breathe and let you take in the atmosphere.  I was so excited that as soon as I was home I was looking up the cast and crew on IMDb and I was surprised to see that this was the writer/director's second film (as director) with INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 (2015) being his first.  Of all movies.  I haven't seen that one but it seems like a massive leap from that one to this one.  He's been a busy writer starting with the first three SAW films and later the four INSIDIOUS pictures.  I'm looking forward to seeing what he makes next and I'm also looking forward to owning UPGRADE so I can show it to all my friends. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hotel Artemis (2018)

Director: Drew Pearce

Writer: Drew Pearce

Composer: Clint Martinez

Starring: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutelia, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista, Kenneth Choi

More info: IMDb

Tagline: No Guns, No Cops, No Killing The Other Patients

Plot: Set in riot-torn, near-future Los Angeles, 'Hotel Artemis' follows the Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

This follows the likes of JOHN WICK (2014) in that it kind of has that  criminal underworld world-building going on with a society of criminals who pay for the privilege of being cared for in an exclusive off the radar hospital.  And like JOHN WICK, the hospital has strict rules that go against what criminals are used to like giving up your weapons at the door, be nice to the staff and guests and so on.  Nearly the entire picture is set in the hotel which is an Art Deco style one hundred year old joint that looks lived in and the lighting and decor give it a nice film noir vibe which also elicits a BLADE RUNNER (1982) vibe.  In fact there were times when we got to see the city scape at night and I so wanted to hear some of that delicious Vangelis score or see some Spinners flying around.  The cast does a wonderful job and first time director (who also wrote this picture) Drew Pearce comes out with a great debut film.  I was a little tickled to see that he produced a fun British TV comedy favorite of mine, NO HEROICS (2008).

The story works nicely with a little something for all of the main characters.  For some you get some back story bits and for others they fill their position to serve the story but not in a cheap way that insults the audience.  The only thing I found lacking was the final act when the shit goes down and things move more quickly to get us to the finish line.  The Nurse thread wraps up a bit heavy-handed and I didn't feel any tension or rush up to that moment.  There is room for a sequel (and I will be there front and center to see if that happens) even though this film doesn't set up for one (which was nice).

Monday, June 18, 2018

Kemper (2008)

Director: Rick Bitzelberger

Writer: Jack Perez

Composers: Bruce Chianese, Geoff Levin

Starring: Christopher Stapleton, Robert Sisko, Sean Thomas, Jordan Blanchard, Andy E. Horne, Zarah Mahler, Samantha Colburn, Robin DeMarco

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A Human Monster

Plot: A film inspired by the true story of Ed Kemper, a serial killer who murdered ten in Santa Cruz, CA during the late sixties and early seventies.

My rating: 4/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Woof.  If you know anything about the man, Kemper, then you won't recognize much from this direct to video movie.  "Inspired by" is to be used very loosely.  That's the first disappointment.  The second is the acting and the seemingly lack of locations.  A lot of locations get used enough to draw attention to themselves.  I get there are budget restraints but geez.  OK, so that's three disappointments.  The acting, especially from Stapleton, is lacking and that's being kind.  This picture has a few big problems but at least there's some good gore effects.  Fans of true crime will be very disappointed in how far the filmmakers stray from the actual and much more interesting story of Ed Kemper.  This picture isn't even set in the 60s through the early 70s when the crimes took place.  The only reason the title and character in this picture exists is for name recognition.  Give this one a pass.  There's so little to like that it's not worth your time.  The Lionsgate DVD offers the film in anamorphic widescreen with the only extras with the non-anamorphic widescreen trailer for this film and n-a trailers for other like-minded Lionsgate films.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Director: Ron Howard

Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Kasdan

Composer: John Powell

Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Erin Kellyman, Linda Hunt

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Never tell him the odds.

Plot: During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.


Halfway through it occurred to me that I was bored and that mostly continued until the end.  I kept waiting for it to get better and it didn't.  I don't think the problem was with the actors.  Ehrenreich was good enough, especially given that he's got the thankless job of trying to fill Harrison Ford's shoes.  Harrelson was fun, Clarke was fine despite her character wasn't that interesting to begin with, Glover did a great Billy Dee Williams impersonation but Lando wasn't much more than window dressing and comic relief and Bettany was rather good as the big baddie despite never leaving HIS FUCKING OFFICE! (at least I can't recall a scene where he does).  Lando's droid, L3, was funny at times and annoying at others.  She suffered from too much screen time and too many jokes.  The action was OK as was the pacing but the biggest problem is with the story and dialogue.  "Look me up sometime.  I'm going to Tatooine.  Some big shot gangster's putting together a crew."  That was pretty clunky.  Also clunky was the dialogue that happened right after Han shoots first.  As if we the fan wouldn't have figured that out.

The movie plays like the screenwriters had a checklist they had to tick off one by one, a list of references from the OT.  And they handle some of them so clumsily that you'd think they were writing this for the most dimwitted movie goer.  It was insulting.  If they absolutely must include them, which they don't, then why not let things happen organically instead of making a big show of it.  Hell, there were a couple that would've only been worse if the character burst suddenly into song about it.  I did thoroughly enjoy Han and Chewie's introduction to each other.  That was one of the few things the movie got right.  But there were so many dumb choices in this picture.  I'm mildly OK with Darth Maul showing up but why the fuck did he have to force pull his lightsaber into the hologram and ignite it?  If you're that dim that you didn't recognize him from THE PHANTOM MENACE, is seeing the dual lightsaber going to be the thing that makes that work for you?  Jesus, the more I talk about this the more I don't like it.  The lighting of most the film was very dim.  I thought this was a problem with the projector until I read online that this was a widespread problem despite what Lucasfilm/Disney says.  It was awful.  Maybe they'll fix that for the home release and I'll someday catch it for free when I borrow it from someone because I'll never buy it.  Now that I think of it I haven't bought any of the Disney Star Wars movies on Blu-ray.  I'm just not that interested.  I have enough friends that own them that I'll probably never need to buy them and I'm OK with that.  Look, I'm not a hater by any stretch.  I wanted this to be good just like I want every movie I see to be good.  This one wasn't up to snuff as an action sci-fi movie much less one that shows the early days of one of screen history's most iconic heroes.  It's not good, it's not bad, it's just OK which is apparently not OK for moviegoers judging by the disappointing box office numbers (as initially projected by Disney).  Come on, people.  Spend some quality time writing a good movie.  That's all anyone cares about. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Frankenstein the Rapist (2008)

Director: Bill Zebub

Writer: Bill Zebub

Starring: T.J. Glenn, Nikki Sebastian, Andrea Szel, Sativa Verte

More info:  IMDb

Plot:  I think it's got something to do with Frankenstein's Monster raping lots of chicks but the movie doesn't get that across well.

My rating: 3/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Have you ever wondered if you could get bored watching an 85 minute movie with 75 minutes of nudity?  I didn't either but there's a first time for everything I reckon.

Smiles, everyone, smiles!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mr. Bill Does Vegas (2000)

Director: Walter Williams

Writer: Walter Williams

Starring: Mr. Bill, Walter Williams, Wayne Newton, Jenna Elfman, The Smothers Brothers, Bobcat Goldthwait, Father Guido Sarducci, Smokey Robinson, Jack Lemon, Joe Theisman, Bud Friedman, Richard Jeni

More info: Amazon

Plot: Mr. Bill talks to famous comedians on his way to reviving his stand-up comedy career with opening up for Wayne Newton in Vegas.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

My first exposure to Mr. Bill was in the mid 70s on Saturday Night Live when I was all of 6 or 7 years old.  That's about the right age to fall in love with this character.  Now, all these decades later, it's not all that funny.  Well, I should say that this twenty minute film isn't all that funny but it's great to see a lot of the stars like Sarducci, Goldthwait, Jeni and others.  They provide some of the funny.  Mr. Bill's voice is a lot more annoying than I remember.  My favorite moment was when Sluggo tears through a golf sand trap in his dune buggy and runs Mr. Bill over.  That's good stuff.  Fortunately they knew this was better at keeping it shorter than longer.  At least there's that. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ben (1972)

Director: Phil Karlson

Writer: Gilbert Ralston

Composer: Walter Scharf

Starring: Lee Montgomery, Joseph Campanella, Arthur O'Connell, Rosemary Murphy, Meredith Baxter, Kaz Garas, Paul Carr, Richard Van Fleet, Kenneth Tobey, James Luisi

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Where "WILLARD" ended... BEN begins. And this time, he's not alone!

Plot: A lonely boy befriends Ben, the leader of a violent pack of killer rats.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Fucking hell!  If you have a problem with the sound of squealing rats then this will drive you batshit crazy.  It's an assault on your ears.  OK, that's the worst offense this flick committed.  The first film, WILLARD (1971), was by no means a masterpiece (the R. Lee Ermy/Crispin Glover remake was better).  It had its problems, too, but it was mostly with how the two leads were handled.  This picture is a small step down from WILLARD but it doesn't have much to recommend.  It's just OK.  The abundance of squeaks started getting on my nerves by the halfway mark and the ending was so bad I had to lower the volume.  The one bright spot is the kid.  He's great.  The last couple of minutes with him and Ben (when the title song, sung by Michael Jackson, starts) about had me in tears.  WTF?  I know!  Seeing Meredith Baxter so young is wild.  Watch the movie for the kid's performance.  Don't expect any great rat kills or anything cool like that.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Staircase (1969)

Director: Stanley Donen

Writer: Charles Dyer

Composer: Dudley Moore

Starring: Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Michael Rogers, Royston Starr, Jake Kavanagh, Dermot Kelly, Gordon Heath, Cathleen Nesbitt, Avril Angers, Neil Wilson, Shelagh Fraser, Gwen Nelson, Pat Heywood, Beatrix Lehmann, Stephen Lewis, Katya Wyeth

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Can this marriage last?

Plot: Charles Dyer and Harry Leeds are a couple that have been living together for nearly 20 years. Both earn a living as hairdressers in the West End of London and both care deeply for their mothers, but not each other as time apart takes its toll on their relationship when Harry has to care for his invalid mother who snips at him every chance she gets.

My rating: 4.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I thought having Harrison & Burton together in one movie camping it up queer eye for the Shakespeare guy style would be amusing to say the least.  Nope.  I was bored for most of the picture.  I can kind of see what would've attracted these two acting powerhouse to do this picture but it just falls flat from start to finish.  The pair have a little chemistry at times but it's mostly so harsh and bland that I wanted them to break up and see other people.  Harrison looks to be having more fun with it.  It's based on Dyer's play so there's a stagey-ness about it but that's not the problem, at least I don't think.  The pacing is slow and that's to be expected in a slice of life kind of film this is but the thing is, I didn't much care about either of these two because they didn't show much love for each other and they're just so mean-spirited.  That kind of behavior gets old and real fast.  Add to that the longish running time of 96 minutes and you're going to be one bored cat.  WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF (1966) this ain't.  You'd think watching two aging queens going at each other for an hour and a half would be fun but this picture proves it can be painful and depressing and not that fun kind of depressing, either.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Parting Shots (1998)

Director: Michael Winner

Writers: Michael Winner, Nick Mead

Composer: Les Reed

Starring: Chris Rea, Felicity Kendal, John Cleese, Bob Hoskins, Diana Rigg, Ben Kingsley, Joanna Lumley, Oliver Reed, Gareth Hunt, Nicholas Gecks, Patrick Ryecart, Peter Davison

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When Harry found out he had six weeks to live, something snapped...and it wasn't his camera.

Plot: After learning he is dying of cancer, a failed photographer illegally buys a pistol and decides to go vigilante and get his revenge on all those who have made his life a misery.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

I'm a fan of so many of the people involved in this that it's hard for me not to like this but it is an often hilarious movie trapped in a boring one and that I can't deny.  Just look at the massive, talented cast and just pull the trigger and watch it.  Maybe fifteen minutes in you'll see what I mean.  It drags often and hard.  The cast is fantastic.  Initially I wasn't sure if non-actor/pop star Chris Rea was going to hurt the picture or help it but eventually I settled into his relaxed style and I loved him by the end of it.  It doesn't help that the always adorable and fun Felicity Kendal is with him for much of it.  Besides Winner's oddly poor pacing problems, the score has moments of being just plain bad.  Even if you're not a film score nutter like me you're likely to come to the same conclusion if you notice the music at all.  Woof, it's off.  Story-wise it's a better film than what we're left with on screen, and considering the tremendous cast and how funny they are in this, it's a damn shame that it's not an overall better picture.  With the right handling I can see this up there with the likes of A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988).

Monday, June 11, 2018

Night of the Tentacles (2013)

AKA: Heart Attack

Director: Dustin Mills

Writer: Dustin Mills

Composer: Dustin Mills

Starring: Brandon Salkil, Nicole Gerity, Melissa Blair, Michael Blair, Jackie McKown, Eugene Flynn, Dustin Mills, Josh Eal, Michael Blaie

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Kiss your ass goodbye!

Plot: This is the Night of the Tentacles! In this obscene Faustian tale a young artists sells his soul to Satan for the new heart he so desperately needs. The only catch is that the heart is a tentacled monstrosity with a hunger for human flesh! Will Dave get the girl of his dreams? Will he run out of neighbors to feed his infernal heart? Will Delilah ever finish urinating? Find out in NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES!!!

My rating:  6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

When it comes to low budget, makin' lots of movies mother fuckers, I dig Dustin a point.  His movies have some good and some bad (compared to a lot of filmmakers in the same situation who just churn out crap).  Usually the good can outweigh the bad and that's what happens here.  The story feels familiar but Mills has some good dialogue at times and there are the occasional jokes that land and have me laughing out loud.  Now considering this is what it is, the acting is serviceable and Salkil does a pretty good job in the lead as Dave.  Film buffs will appreciate some of the humor more than others.  There's a little bit of nudity (nice) and there are some kills and gore (nice).  The movie's only an hour and a half long but it feels longer.  Part of the problem is being stuck in Dave's apartment except for a few scant minutes of shots in another tenant's apartment.  What's worse than that is the color grading given to most of the film.  It'd be nice to see some natural light to break up the reds, greens, blues and so on.  Was that done on purpose to cover up something?  Maybe the lighting was shit from the beginning and this was a way to salvage it?  Beats me.  But the other worst thing about the flick is the voice of the heart/monster (Flynn).  It's partly a horrendous British accent by someone who thinks Crocodile Dundee is a Brit and it's partly laughable because it's so bad and the accent is all over the place from British, Australian and American (did I miss any?).  It's painful to listen to at times.  Despite all of that there is enough to like in Mills' third film to warrant checking out.  I've now seen his first four features.  I should skip ahead to something more recent.  This guy's a work horse.  He's made twenty features since 2010 with another one in post.  I don't care if his were the worst movies out there (which they are far from it)...that's impressive and I'm envious.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Double Nickels (1977)

Director:  Jack Vacek

Writers:  Patrice Schubert, Jack Vacek

Starring: Edward Abrahms, Ed Abrams, Lynn Booker, Micheal Brennan, George Cole, Michael Cole, Larry Dunn

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When you want a car repossessed hire a pro!

Plot: Two highway patrolmen think they are working on the side repossessing cars. But eventually, they realize that they have been tricked and are actually stealing the cars.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I'm not into cars so much but I'm totally into 1970s drive-in car flicks.  Jack Vacek (the cinematographer on GONE IN 60 SECONDS (1974)) wrote and directed this picture.  On movies like this the only thing you expect to be good are the car chases and stunts and he delivers.  The rest of the movie is OK, though, and not so bad that you're cringing every few minutes in between naps.  It's not a boring movie but it does drag sometimes.  The chases are pretty good and long (yay!).  There's one that has a cop chasing one of our main guys down a series of concrete stairs.  I was freaking out concerned about the muscle car not getting beat up.   I got a little into it for that scene.  It was cool.  The acting is alright, all things considered.  It kind of helped that a lot of these people weren't professional actors.  It added a little something real to the picture.  There were a bunch of these types of flicks during the decade and a lot of them get swept under the rug because they were too dumb.  This one has a decent story with all the trimmings for a fun night at the drive-in...except for nudity.  There isn't any and that's just sad. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Ministry of Fear (1944)

Director: Fritz Lang

Writers: Seton I. Miller, Graham Greene

Composer: Victor Young

Starring: Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, Carl Esmond, Hillary Brooke, Percy Waram, Dan Duryea, Alan Napier, Erskine Sanford

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Stephen Neale has just been released from an asylum during World War 2 in England when he stumbles on a deadly Nazi spy plot by accident, and tries to stop it.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

There's at least one thing you can count on with Fritz Lang and that's a quality product.  I'd say the same thing for Ray Milland.  He's always delivering the goods no matter how bad the picture might be.  Once Stephen is cut loose from the asylum into the war-torn world, things get interesting to say the least.  The fair scene where he sees the "psychic" and gets the cake is where the intrigue starts and it doesn't let go until the all too happy tag at the end which brings the cake back into it.  That joke was awful and it had no place in the picture.  It should've ended just before that and with ominous music.  Anyway, the acting is very good as is everything else.  It's a smaller spy intrigue picture but it works wonderfully well.  Lang does a great job delivering the suspense.  He's so good at it that I would love to see how much different this would've been if Hitchcock had directed it.  It's the kind of picture that he would've done anyway.  My only minor gripe is the lack of outdoor filming.  Everything is filmed on a set including the outdoor shots.  Being outside for a little while here and there would've added something welcome.