Sunday, January 13, 2013

Movie reviews from 2008

Let The Right One In

Let The Right One In -this highly effective Swedish movie is well worth the Netflix slot.Sure it has a slower start- but you can watch this dubbed or subbed.We follow a young boy who is an outsider who befriends his mysterious neighbor.The neighbor is a Vampire.The boy is continously picked on by bullies - his one true friend is the odd person who he talks to at night.Mix a great score with some superb mayhem and a solid plot set in the 80s and you have the ingredients for a solid waking nightmare.While this movie does have moments of graphic violence- the other thing that makes this a standout film is the implied carnage at key points.This offbeat vampire DVD has a 7 minute behind the scenes featurette and some deleted scenes. A-

The Shape of Things to Come

The Shape of Things To Come -This adaptation of a H.G. Wells story is worthy of MST3K commentary.You have Oscar winner Jack Palance as a mad scientist who is blackmailing a moon colony with killer robots.You also have bad acting,cheap special effects,a synth driven score and bad fight scenes.If you like cheesey dated sci-fi check this movie out- if you value logic,fast paced action and witty dialogue skip this movie. D

The Naked Kiss

The Naked Kiss - This 1964 Samuel Fuller flick is captivating cinema from the explosive first sequence until the improbable climax.We follow a traveling salesperson on the run- her product Angel Foam is a front for her real inventory-herself.After one final unfulfilling transaction she decides to become a nurse and settle down in a small town.Of course things are never that easy and her checkered past keeps interjecting itself into her storybook new life.Well worth the time- sure the movie is dated- but that is part of the charm of this superb fable. A

In A Lonely Place

In A Lonely Place - the first movie from Humphrey Bogart's production company is superb.Bogart is on fire- by not tearing up the scenary- he carries each scene he is in- going from charming to brooding at the exact right moment with a look,a gesture.One of my favorite Bogart performances is in this dark Nicholas Ray directed movie.He plays Dixon Steele- a proud writer who wants to write quality in a hollywood system obsessed with quantity and popcorn sales.Needing work he enlists a coatcheck girl to give him the Cliff Notes verion of the latest novel he is assigned to adapt for the silver screen.But when she turns up dead the next morning- he is suspect number one.At the same time he falls in love with his alibi Gloria Grahame.Is the complex Dixon Steele a murder or just a victim of circumstance.Worth owning or at least Netflixxing. A +

Slaughter Hotel

Slaughter Hotel -This 70s exploitation flick mixes softcore sexiness with an ax-murder in an asylum for sexy women that seem to like to masturbate naked.Klaus Kinski plays a doctor who has a crush on one of the lovely ladies.Rosabla Neri & Margaret Lee lead the cast of lovely victims.The plot is pretty typical for a slasher movie - nothing new.The DVD has a 10 minute interview with the director.If you like the grindhouse mix of sex and violence- check out Thriller & Sex and Fury . C+

California Split

California Split -Solid Altman flick from the 70s about 2 compulsive gamblers.Elliot Gould and George Segal are the leads in this flick .They meet at a poker game and form a bond as they broker new scams and fall into differing hardships.This movie is not perfect- but it does a great job of showing the greed and despair and the buzz of gambling.The DVD has a commentary track by Altman and the 2 leads.If you like Altman's style then you may dig this raw look at addiction. B+
Teen Witch -one of those flicks that has a cult following- this movie has a good energy to it- we follow a brainy teen that wants the school hunk to notice her.Then Louise Miller played by Robin Lively finds out that she is a witch.This movie is part musical,part slapstick comedy and plenty of fun for a low budget teen flick.This PG-13 flick is good fodder for the tweener set having a sleepover. B-

Assault of the Killer Bimbos - 2 go-go dancers and a greasy spoon waitress flee to Mexico to avoid the law and a murder rap.This made for laughs boobie flick is decent for one viewing- it has enough cheesey ,bad dialogue and gratitious nudity to make this a decent exploitation flick- but probably not something for the DVD collection. C-

Dot and the Kangaroo - Well done 70's Aussie flick about a girl that gets lost in the Bush.This movie mixes animated people and animals with a live background- although crude by today's standards- the story and the character make this a worthwhile investment of time .Dot is befriended by a female Kangaroo that helps her find her way home-on the way she meets many musical animals.Not for everybody- but a good family friendly movie about Australian animals. A-

Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate - this Spanish language flick was one of the most successful foreign films- but to me it was a mix of Rochelle,Rochelle softcore sensuality with a mix of terrible family traditions and a star crossed love .The main character was likeable enough and I understood her frustration with her mother- but her lame love interest annoyed me( he marries her sister to be close to her and off course that leads to lots of hurt feelings).This arthouse flick is not something that I will revisit- the only extra on this disc was a really lame dub job in English. C

The Bronx is Burning

The Bronx is Burning : well done ESPN mini-series about the tumultous 1977 New York Yankees.John Turturro does a solid job as the fiesty manager Billy Martin and Kevin Conway captures Gabe Paul perfectly.I am still not sold on Oliver Platt as Steinbrenner- he did an okay job-but then again Steinbrenner is such a cartoon it is hard to portray someone like that without chewing up some scenery.This miniseries focuses on the Yankees chase for the pennant and the New York mayoral contest,the Son of Sam killings and the urban wasteland that the Big Apple was during the late 70s.The show mixes historical footage with the actors.Other movies that really capture that period of NYC are The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Taxi Driver.The DVD collection has a good third discs with featurettes about the Fenway dugout brawl and the straw that stirs the drink.If you want to read more about the Bronx Bombers check out the sarcastic and fun The Bronx Zoo by reliever Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock that chronicles the even more tumultous 1978 season of the Yankees. B+
Punk:Attitude : This Don Letts documentary about the punk scene,fashion and music seems to focus on the early and formative years of punk from Brando in The Wild One to the Velvet Underground,MC5 to the Pistols to the CBGB bands of the 70s- they talk about later bands like Bad Brains and Dead Kennedys- but really tend to glass thru much of the 80s- still it was an interesting flick with plenty of insight from folks that were there at the beginning and footage of classic bands.Worth a Netflix if you are interested in that scene and have a passing knowledge of the music and it's roots- but nothing worth owning. B-

Perepolis -This animated adaptation of the Marjane Strapi graphic novel is gripping from the first scene.We follow the life of an Iranian female during the Iranian revolution and Iran/Iraq war.The animation is groundbreaking in it's simplicity- mostly black and white it captures the bleak life of being a free spirited girl in a fundamentalist country.The DVD has a well done dubbed in English track along with it's original French language track-it also has a behind the scenes featurette and scene specific commentary.If you like animated movies that are Disneyfied you should seek this movie out ASAP. A

the ONION Movie :Capturing the irrevance of the Onion in the tradition of classic skit movies like Kentucky Fried Movie & Groove Tube this movie is a mix of parodies and fake news segments.Maybe not a homerun- but worth a rental if you like satire mixed with bathroom humor.This movie features the best use of Stephen Segal I have ever seen(ok I have managed to not see most of his movies). B-

A Kiss Before Dying

A Kiss Before Dying -this hamhanded 1956 melodrama stars Robert Wagner as a wealth obsessed college student who impregnates a wealthy co-ed(Joanne Woodward) and then decides to kill her.After he fakes her suicide- he decides to turn his attention to her sister.Ridiculous plot turns and pre-CSI forensics make this a chore to watch.The lone feature on the DVD was a trailer for the movie. D-

City for Conquest

City For Conquest - this 1940 Warner Brothers movie gets the full treatment for it 's DVD release- featuring Warner Brother's night at the movies- you can watch a vintage cartoon,news reel,trailer and short before the main movie.This Cagney picture is not my favorite-but it is a decent flick buoyed by the pluckish Anne Sheridan as an ambitous dancer and love interest for Cagney.Cagney plays a humble boxer with a quick left.But this is not your average boxing flick- it is a melodrama about success and fame and the price of following your dreams.A young Anthony Quinn plays Sheridan's dance partner and famed director (On The Waterfront,Splendor in the Grass) Elia Kazan plays a boyhood chum who becomes a wiseguy.The movie itself rates a B- -but the extras which include a commentary by Richard Shickel and the 1940 blooper reel is at least a B+ for fans of classic hollywood.

Jun 14, 2008

The Happening

The Happening - ok I got swept up in the hype and the 8 1/2 falling thing in the trailer- either way I actually went to the theater to see the latest M. Night Shalayman flick.I did not hate the movie- but it felt like it lacked closure and had gratitious death scenes in it - so it ended up being a rather frustrating experience-the best character in the movie appears in the final act and feels out of place with the rest of the movie.Instead of a happening - we get 90 minutes of vaguely random scenes.Not worth more than a matinee ticket. C-

Jun 7, 2008

The One and Only

The One and Only -This 70s flick about a full blown ham who can't choose between being a wrestler or married.Henry Winkler charms his way thru this Carl Reiner flick about a young man that settles for wrestling when he can't succeed as an actor in the Big Apple in the fifties.Chavo Classic makes a brief appearance as Indian Joe and Roddy Pipper has a non-speaking role as Leatherneck Joe Brady and Gene Labell,Herve Villachez,William Daniels round out the cast.Gene Saks does a good job as the old school agnet/manager type-all borscht-belt schtick and lost of fun.Winkler seems to be channeling a less nuerotic Woodie Allen in this flick- sure he is charming- but sometimes you feel like he is blind to the world around him.A fun look at wrestling in the beginning of television- but the movie is less about wrestling and more about Winkler's character's desire to be loved by strangers.A decent time capsule-this dated movie will be a good curio for rasslin' fans. C+

Annie Hall -A nuerotic comedian(Woodie Allen) looks back on his relationship with Annie Hall(Diane Keaton).Breaking the fourth wall at times and mixing in memories from his past- Allen weaves a funny story- hard to believe this won the Oscar for best picture- but this still has plenty of comedy that holds up. B-
Clash of Titans - Unintentional comedy,wooden acting and odd effects make this an easy target for MST3K types.Harry Hamlin is the dullard protaginist-seriously he looks either stoned or stupified for most of the movie.He is the pawn for an ego driven game of chess between the immortals(Zues,etc.)This is a fun watch in spite of itself. C-

ended up going to see Iron Man -good shot em stuff- but I really wanted to fast forward most of the dialogue- Downey was decent as Tony Stark and sometimes his schtick was funny - but in the end I did not feel like I have seen anything new- an ok diversion - but nothing lasting- disposable entertainment
Saw some decent DVDs this week- Payday - a well made low budget 1973 flick about a touring country singer(Rip Torn)- a mixture of comedy,drama and tons of absurdity- if you like epic sword and sandals flicks - you should at least Netflix The Fall of the Roman Empire -directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Mason,Christopher Plummer,Sophia Loren,Alec Guniess and others- worth seeking out

Southland Tales

Southland Tales -I watched the latest DVD release featuring Dwayne Johnson(formerly the Rock)- an interesting post apocalyptic story set in the near future where America is still reeling from a nuclear terrorist attack and has put the country under martial law.The cast list is virtual where are they now mix of SNL alum(Jon Lovitz,Cheri O'Terri,Nora Dunn),Wallace Shawn,Sarah Michelle Gellar(Buffy as a porn star),Christopher Lambert ,Will Sasso,John Laroquette,Justin Timberlake and others.
The plot is little convulted- something about Fluid Karma,revelations,extortion and time travel and the movie is rather long- 2 hours and 21 minutes. It is a definite odd movie with some random dance sequences,parody commercials and a floating van. If you like head-trip movies like The Wall or sci-fi stuff you may enjoy this one- but if you are looking for a typical action flick this will probably annoy you.The DVD has a 30 minute featurette and a 10 minute cartoon as extras.I liked the movie- but I tend to like stuff that is a little out of the norm.


  • The Steel Helmet

    The Steel Helmet - this 1951 Samuel Fuller flick is dedicated to the grunts(the Infantry).Set in Korea during the war- this movie was filmed in Los Angeles for $100,000- but don't let that deter you from seeking out this intense and gritty movie.From the stunning opening sequence to the raw dialogue that tackles racism to the intense battle scenes this is a good combat flick.Gene Evans is the gruff Sergeant Zack- he holds the movie together with his solid performance. Fuller does a good job making Griffith Park look like the Korean countryside- the main set piece is a Buddhist Temple- he does a good job making the temple seem foreign- it is obvious that Fuller likes Eastern culture(another great flick from him is 1955's House of Bamboo set in post World War II Tokyo).If you like character driven war movies like Men in War you should enjoy this early effort from Samuel Fuller. A
  • Apr 13, 2008

    Masters of the Universe

    Masters of the Universe -this 1987 live action adaptation of the popular 80s cartoon features Dolph Lundgren as He-Man.This movie wants to be a big epic success- the opening theme by Bill Conti is a sonic mix of John William's themes to Superman & Star Wars and the opening credits have the same feel..Sadly this movie lacks even the pop culture originality of those movies.Not cheesey enough to mock continously(ok we mocked it anyhow) nor heroic enough to enjoy as a super-hero flic. Skeletor(played by Frank Langella) has seized castle GreySkull and imprisoned a socceress.With odds against him He-Man utitlizes a universal gateway made by Billy Barty to jump to smalltown in rural America.Courteney Cox is the smalltown girl who is about to break up with her boyfriend and musician Robert Duncan McNeil(Tom Paris from Star Trek Voyager).Anyhow there is fighting and fish out of water or Tarzan in New York hijinx padding out the movie.An obvious attempt to cash-in on a show.A mixture of terrible special effects with lame dialogue- not worth

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