Showing posts with label Movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Movies. Show all posts

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Movie Reviews: Theatre Of Blood

Theatre of Blood
directed by Douglas Hickox

Growing up back in the day I always thought that if one wanted to be an evil overlord one could do worse than model yourself after Vincent Price. Price was one of the most famous practitioners of the now archaic Transatlantic Accent. 

Price was also an actor who could simultaneously bring a tremendous amount of gravitas to almost any movie he starred in while also, if the role called for it, chewing the scenery with an unmatched manic hammy intensity. Price never made any good movie bad but he made quite a few bad movies good. 

Many of Price's villains were often insane, inbred, murderous, lustful, scheming, and completely malevolent but they were also almost always polite and possessed of remarkably good manners. Just because Price's character might be preparing to serve you your own kidneys is no reason for him to be uncivil or mean to you. Perish the thought! Price's characters were gentlemen! And so was Price in real life. He was the opposite of villainous.

Movie Reviews: The World The Flesh and The Devil

The World The Flesh and The Devil
directed by Ranald MacDougall

This is an apocalyptic movie with statements on society, fear, and race. Superstar actor and icon of cool Harry Belafonte also produced the movie. As
 this film was made in 1959, what was then likely daring and risk taking may appear less so to modern eyes. Or not. 

There are certain storylines that Hollywood was and is squeamish about investigating, both in 1959 and in 2023. Still, this film was unusual in featuring a reasonably well developed Black character. 

Extroverted or not we all need some human contact. Ralph Burton (Belafonte) is a mine inspector in Pennsylvania who is investigating a mine tunnel that has been shut down. After a cave-in Ralph can hear people digging to rescue him but then they stop. 

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Movie Reviews: The First Power

The First Power
directed by Robert Resnikoff

Hollywood created a number of eighties and nineties movies that shared the theme of a bloodthirsty killer being caught and executed before coming back from the dead, possessing other people, and continuing to murder folks. 

Often the obsessed hero detective who was the person who tracked the murderer down in the first place had some strange link with the supernatural murderer. Now, left grasping at straws, the detective must struggle with reality. Maybe he really did arrest and help convict the wrong man. Maybe the detective is hearing strange things or having nightmares. Maybe the detective's wife or brother suddenly is speaking in languages they don't know.

Maybe the detective's over the top sexy but profoundly strange new girlfriend knows more than she's telling him. Maybe there's a cult of killers. Maybe the detective himself is the killer. These movies can vary widely in quality. There was Deliver Us From Evil, Shocker, The Horror Show, Virtuosity, and Fallen (the last two both starred Denzel Washington and were at the higher end of the quality spectrum).

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Movie Reviews: The Family

The Family
directed by Luc Besson

How many serious gangster movies have you seen or least are aware of starring Robert DeNiro? Probably quite a few, right? Now how many gangster movies have you seen that feature a fish out of water gangster who is the often clueless focal point of the resulting comedy? More than a few, yes? Well The Family combined those two genres with mixed results. The Family is black comedy. The director invites laughs at serious but absurd situations. 

YMMV on this, given the subject matter and settings. The movie shows that even people who aren't so nice still face the same life challenges as us all. 

They get irritated at their spouse for not capping the toothpaste. They have sibling rivalries. They fume at repair men who are late, don't complete the job, or who try to cheat them. They pick up skills and knowledge from their parents' careers and life examples. And when things get tough families stick together against outside threats.

Movie Reviews: After.Life

directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo

Depending on your mood you might believe that this is an intelligent art film with a powerful message. Or you might think that it's a pretentious horror film that thinks it's smarter than it really is and uses tropes and cliches you've seen a million times before--including plenty of female star nudity-- to no great avail.

As referenced in HBO's Boardwalk Empire death will happen to us all eventually. But we don't know what it's like until we experience it. And once we do we can't tell anyone what it's like. All we know is that it's final. 

So it's important to live life to the fullest, to give and receive love while we're here, to live each day as if it is our last, because one day we'll be correct. That's this film's underlying message. However it's wrapped in a horror movie packaging, that as mentioned, feels old and dull. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Movie Reviews: Danger Signal

Danger Signal
directed by Robert Florey

This short movie doesn't reach the level of a true film noir though it certainly looks like it thanks to the fantastic cinematography by James Wong Howe, a rarity in early Hollywood, a Chinese-American cinematographer. Howe's work, along with some of the acting, gives the film a gravitas that unfortunately falls apart at the ending or when you closely examine it. 

But since the movie moves fast it's entertaining enough I guess. In the sitcom Seinfeld there was an episode where the title character wanted to stop dating one roommate and switch to dating the other. His solution was to propose a threesome in the hopes that his current girlfriend would be disgusted and dump him while the other lady might be intrigued enough to become his new girlfriend. 

His plans fell through when both women expressed interest. Danger Signal was made in 1945 so it lacks lurid sex, but it does have a man, a far more dangerous man than the hapless Seinfeld character, who wishes to switch from one roommate (here the women are sisters) to the other. We already know that this man Ronnie Mason (a perfectly cast Zachary Scott) is no good because we see him leaving his murder victim, after stealing her wedding ring and some cash and placing a fake suicide note where the authorities are sure to find it.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Movie Reviews: Johnny Cool

Johnny Cool    
directed by William Asher
It's always interesting and maybe even a little unsettling in a fun way to realize that actors or actresses that you think of in only one way actually can have a wide range and be convincing in different roles. 

I remembered the actress Elizabeth Montgomery from being a child back in the Pleistocene period watching reruns of the bland tv series Bewitched in which Montgomery played Samantha. 

Samantha is a sorceress who despite being far more powerful and intelligent than her ordinary ad exec husband, is content to be (mostly) a compliant housewife who uses her magic to get her husband out of various silly jams or give folks lessons on how to be better people. She was a "good" witch.

In Bewitched Montgomery was often attired in relatively sensible clothing. Plain, staid, and blah were the normal descriptions for the Samantha character. So it was something of a shock to me to watch Johnny Cool

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Movie Reviews: Halloween Ends

Halloween Ends
directed by David Gordon Green

This movie, the conclusion of the original Halloween storyline, was disappointing. Seriously Freaking Disappointing. The serial killer Michael Myers has been terrorizing an Illinois town for over half a century. 

Michael seemed to be obsessed with town resident Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) one of the few people to survive his remorseless attacks. Now the thing about Michael, which has launched him from run of the mill murderer to force of nature, is that his strength, ability to endure pain, and ability to avoid detection have always been beyond that of any man. 

The films always played coy about this but the previous installment Halloween Kills made it obvious that Michael had consistently survived wounds that would have killed anything that was human. 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Movie Reviews: Five On The Black Hand Side

Five On The Black Hand Side
directed by Oscar Williams

From the mid sixties to the early seventies there was a cultural and artistic component to the US and associated diaspora civil rights/Black power movements. It
 didn't last long but for about a decade there was renewed interest--marketable interest--in Black centered stories and other art. 

This film's director and writer thought that there were too many movies which presented Black actors and actresses as gangsters, pimps, drug dealers, super studs, and foxy mamas all looking to "stick it to the Man" over a wah-wah guitar and congas soundtrack. The writer and playwright Charlie Russell, the older brother of NBA superstar Bill Russell, conceived this movie as an anti-blaxploitation corrective.

This film has no nudity, toplessness, or real violence. It's a broadly humorous, though not slapstick look, at issues impacting a Black Los Angeles family.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Crow

The Crow
directed by Alex Proyas

This 1994 goth action/horror/romance film was the actor Brandon Lee's breakthrough film. It would have made him a household name and likely raised his profile for many more lead action roles and who knows what else. Unfortunately it became Lee's epitaph. People could only wonder what might have been. 

Another actor shot and killed Lee while the two were filming a dramatic sequence. The actor used a weapon that should have had blanks but via negligence had been loaded and misfired with a dummy round that still had primer. Lee had completed most of his scenes before his death so the director and producer finished the film, using other stand-ins and creative editing for work or dialogue that required Lee.

These events gave The Crow more somberness but it was already a dreary movie. The film was based on a comic book /graphic novel written by a man who was processing his emotions around the sudden random death of his fiancee. Combine that with some real life criminal events in Detroit and you have The Crow.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Movie Reviews: Violent Saturday

Violent Saturday
directed by Richard Fleischer

I have seen this movie characterized as a film noir. I'm not sure I would categorize it as such. It has some noir elements. Many characters are sympathetic or disturbing mixes of good and evil. 

I think this is a good crime drama that doesn't try to convince the viewer that the bad guys aren't so bad or like some later films show things from the bad guys' point of view. 

Nonetheless in style and interlocking story lines this film must have had an influence on later crime or drama directors, especially people like Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. I seem to remember reading someplace that Tarantino cited this movie approvingly. 

Don't worry. This film is not that explicit in terms of violence despite the title. It does play up the idea that no one is safe, even women and children. I suppose that was a little unusual in the mid fifties when this film was released. This film didn't have much in the way of cynicism, pessimism, or "good guys" losing, all of which I think are important to a greater or lesser extent for something to be a true film noir.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Movie Reviews: I, Madman

I, Madman
directed by Tibor Takacs

This horror movie is visually and thematically a homage to old noir films and pulp detective/adventure stories that usually had an endangered pretty woman, a protective two-fisted hero, and some creepy psycho villain. 

Although this 1989 movie was made when standards on horror film depictions of sex and violence were relaxing, this film remained faithful to its influences in that more is implied than is shown. 

I didn't think anything shown or implied was gratuitous. I like horror movies; it takes a lot for me to think that something is gratuitous. Anyhow I never thought that the director was trying to hide a bad story with cleavage shots or buckets of blood.

Movie Reviews: A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story
directed by Bob Clark

It's nearing the time of year when this movie will be playing all day every day somewhere on a cable or streaming service. If you are under 40 or so you may wonder what the big deal is. Older people such as myself may remember watching the movie and experience a wave of nostalgia. 

I still think the movie is funny. My good feelings about the film are not because the film is always laugh out loud hilarious but because I remember watching this movie with departed family members. So I associate this movie with better times.

Yes, many of the film's activities and attitudes are now dated. Most mothers work outside the home. Most kids would rather have the latest video game than a BB gun. A lamp of a female leg clad in fishnet stockings would be tame today. And there would be some sort of adult intervention if a child bully and his evil henchman chased other children home from school every day.

But some things are timeless. Adults and children live in different worlds with different rules. People often have outdated perceptions of younger relatives. Most parents love their children unconditionally.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Movie Reviews: Fuzz

directed by Richard Colla

This 1972 movie was based on the novel of the same name written by Evan Hunter, born Salvatore Lombino, who is best known by his pen name of Ed McBain. Hunter also wrote the film's screenplay. 
Many of "McBain's" novels were set in NYC's 87th precinct but this movie was set in Boston. Fuzz had two big stars in Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch but they didn't click together for at least two reasons.

(1) The film was conceived and executed as an ensemble "dramedy". 
(2) According to Reynolds, Welch was not happy, to put it mildly, that Reynolds had higher billing and the associated higher pay. Welch refused to work with Reynolds. 

Their two characters were rarely in the same scene together and again according to Reynolds when they were Welch insisted on using body doubles for dialogue so that she wouldn't be there. Welch was also annoyed with what she thought was excessive attention to her beauty/body; she made the director tone down a scene she thought was needlessly revealing. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Movie Reviews: Odds Against Tomorrow

Odds Against Tomorrow
directed by Robert Wise

Too many modern movies seek to ensure that their political or social message is sent and received regardless of whether the story is any good. Screenwriters, directors, and actors  may even deliberately damage the story to put the message front and center. In some films this has become ridiculous, rendering the end product almost unwatchable. 

It's one thing to say that a film's heroine is competent or a bada$$. It's something else to make the character perfect from the beginning in everything and thus eliminate challenges, growth and development. It's something else to make every male character incompetent, weak, malicious, or sexist. 

It's one thing to say that racism is bad. It's something else to make a racist character so ridiculous that he becomes a live action cartoon who is easily dismissed by real life racists.

Artists who want to entertain and educate the audience could do worse than to watch films created by Robert Wise, who was best known for The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Sound of Music, and West Side Story

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Movie Reviews: Phone Call From A Stranger

Phone Call From A Stranger
directed by Jean Negulesco

Although some might consider this movie a noir film because of its sassy dames, snappy dialogue, tough customers,  and frank examination and depiction of human vice, I think ultimately it's too didactic and even too optimistic to be a noir. It has the noir look though. 

Watching this film I was reminded of things I have learned over the years about relatives who have passed on or who have entered their golden years. Sometimes this information wasn't always positive. As a child there's stuff that people just won't tell you. 

And even when I became an adult many older relatives or family friends weren't willing to discuss their foibles or mistakes with members of the younger generation. Stay out of grown folks' business was a family maxim.

But ultimately it doesn't matter because all of us are trying to do the best we can in our allotted time. Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. That's very much the message that Phone Call From A Stranger conveys. 

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Movie Reviews: Death Note

Death Note
directed by Adam Wingard

Two recurring messages in many Western speculative fiction and horror stories are that humans are not meant to know certain things or to have certain powers. 

Some argue that these themes are baked in to Western philosophy and culture because of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and their breaking of God's ban of eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 

I don't want to get too much into those arguments. I only bring them up because they are important to this movie's story. Although this movie's story originated in a non-Western environment (it's an adaptation of a Japanese manga) , it still features the questions I mentioned above. 

Because I am unfamiliar with the original manga, it's not always clear watching this film what was taken from the original story and what was added/changed/deleted by the American director and producers. I have a sneaking suspicion that the interpretation wasn't very good. 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Hoodlum

The Hoodlum
directed by Max Nosseck

This 1951 crime film noir starred Lawrence Tierneywho as previously discussed, had a reputation for anti-social behavior, as an unrepentant thug. I don't think the role was difficult. This movie was only an hour long. It lacked character development. 

But I didn't miss character growth. This movie was a response to the age old question of whether we are more defined by nature or nurture. Are we naturally bad or good, or are we influenced by our surroundings, experiences, peers, relatives, and mentors. 

We still don't know how much of each is involved in our makeup. If people do bad things because of biology are they responsible. Or if it's mostly the environment (bad parenting, lack of wealth, incorrect ideologies or other belief systems) must the state then correct that bad environment?

Movie Reviews: Day Shift

Day Shift
directed by J.J. Perry

There are more than a few books that feature mercenary minded heroes who make their living by hunting, trapping, and killing supernatural creatures. The authors A. Lee Martinez, Mike Carey, and Larry Correia are the first people to come to mind but if I gave it some thought I know could think of many more. 

There have also been movies with such themes. Some have worked. Some have not. I think It's difficult to mix horror, action, comedy and a world weary cynical point of view in which destroying the supernatural is just another day at the office. Shaun of the Dead and The Dead Don't Die were two such films that blended humor and real fear successfully.

I think such stories tend to work better as novels than as movies. Day Shift's problem was that it underplayed the horror in favor of the humor even though the humor was at best hit or miss. Mostly miss actually.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Movie Reviews: The Initiation Of Sarah

The Initiation of Sarah
directed by Robert Day

This 1978 made for television movie was similar to the 1976 movie Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel. It's so close that I wonder why the director and producers even bothered but money talks. 

There were a number of talented actors/actresses in this movie, including multiple Academy Award and Emmy winners and then young actors who would go on to roles in iconic films or shows such as Dallas, Airplane, and Mad Men. I don't remember seeing this film but I do remember some of the commercials.

Because this film was made for television the depictions of violence and sex were toned down (although the director apparently couldn't resist a few cleavage and wet t-shirt shots which were risque for the times) while the special effects were meh.

Like Carrie, the movie's theme revolves around the bullying that women and girls inflict upon each other and how a young shy girl with supernatural powers responds.