Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Update

I know, I know...I've fallen off the blog wagon.  I'll be back soon to tackle this incredible stack of movies that have been piling up, waiting to be reviewed.  Soon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Silver Streak (1976)

Director: Arthur Hiller

Writer: Colin Higgins

Composer: Henry Mancini

Starring: Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, Richard Pryor, Patrick McGoohan, Ned Beatty, Clifton James, Ray Walston, Stefan Gierasch, Len Birman, Valerie Curtin, Lucille Benson, Scatman Crothers, Richard Kiel, Fred Willard

More info: IMDb

Tagline: By plane, by train, by the edge of your seat, it's the most hilarious suspense ride of your life!

Plot: On a long-distance train trip, a man finds romance but also finds himself in danger of being killed, or at least pushed off the train.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not.

I've known of this movie ever since it's theatrical release (granted, I was really young) and I finally watched it.  It's good.  Wilder makes a great lead in what's less comedy and more crime and thriller.  The dinner conversation between George (Wilder) and Hilly (Clayburgh) is wonderfully playful and sweet.  It's even better that the courtship takes its time and Hiller allows these two characters to relax and breathe.  The cast is wonderful.  There are all kinds of great character actors tossed into this picture.  It's playful but not all that funny until an hour in when Richard Pryor shows up.  The chemistry between Wilder and Pryor is magical.  These two guys together are great.  Just before they meet George (Wilder) has a run in with Sheriff Chauncey (Clifton James).  You'll remember James as the oafish Southern sheriff in LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974).  Unfortunately he's playing essentially the same character and it gets old and fast.  Then Pryor shows up and the funny really starts.  There's lots of action which culminates in a big gunfight escape by the bad guys. Henry Mancini's main theme is fun.  Overall I enjoyed it and I'm really surprised that it's taken nearly 40 years to see it.  The 20th Century Fox DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print but the only extras are anamorphic widescreen trailers for 7 flicks. 

The Missing (2003)

Director: Ron Howard

Writers: Thomas Eidson, Ken Kaufman

Composer: James Horner

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd, Aaron Eckhart, Val Kilmer, Sergio Calderon, Eric Schweig, Steve Reevis, Jay Tavare, Simon Baker, Ray McKinnon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: How far would you go, how much would you sacrifice to get back what you have lost?

Plot: In 1885 New Mexico, a frontier medicine woman forms an uneasy alliance with her estranged father when her daughter is kidnapped by an Apache brujo.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I can't quite put my finger on why I'm not diggin' on this film.  The performances are fine I suppose.  Horner's score is mediocre (and I'm getting so tired of the pan flute showing up in every movie with Indians or Irish).  It could be the abundance of drama or that it feels like it's a half hour too long.  There's something about it that kept it from being compelling and enjoyable.  It's an OK picture but it was fatiguing to watch.  The scene near the end when Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett have their extended moment was nice.  You know, I think having a non-traditional sweeping Western score would have served the film better.  Ah.  I'm moving on.  The two-disc Columbia special edition DVD comes with a bunch of extras but I didn't bother to see what they are.  Maybe I'll get my two bucks back at a yard sale.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

Director: George Barry

Writer: George Barry

Composers: Ossian Brown, Mike McCoy, Stephen Thrower

Starring: Demene Hall, William Russ, Julie Ritter, Linda Bond, Patrick Spence-Thomas, Rosa Luxemburg, Dave Marsh, Ed Oldani, Dessa Stone, Marshall Tate, samir Eid, Fred Abdenour, Jock Brandis, Demene E. Hall

More info: IMDb

Plot: A bed possessed by a demon spirit consumes its users alive.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Oddly enough, yeah.

This picture has an interesting history.  Writer/director George Barry made this in 1973 and unsuccessfully shopped it around for distribution for years.  It gained a cult status from countless bootleg VHS tapes and it finally received an official DVD in 2004.  It's the only film Barry's ever made and that's a shame because it's pretty fun.  Yeah, it's campy but it's also got a great gimmick in the titular character.  There's some interesting and fun special effects for the bed devouring its victims.  The plot is pretty simple.  The spirit of a man lives in a painting on the wall.  He's our narrator who also talks to the bed.  He talks about how he designed the bed before he died and how it came to be. That's not even told at the beginning.  You have to watch it all to get the full story but that's the gist of it.  In between all of that is a series of people throughout the decades that come to the mansion and who subsequently get eaten.


There's nudity, gore and humor.  It's not a comedy, per se, but it's got elements of fun and the film makers are fully aware that this is for fun and not even they are taking it too seriously.  The effects, as I said earlier, are very good and I thought the story and everything wasn't all that bad.  I'm not going to take off the future menu just yet because I think I just might like it more the second time...after a few years.  You can watch the whole thing on YouTube above. 

Skidoo (1968)

Director: Otto Preminger

Writer: Doran William Cannon

Composer: Harry Nilsson

Starring: Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, Fred Clark, Michael Constantine, Frank Gorshin, John Phillip Law, Peter Lawford, Burgess Meredith, George Raft, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney, Groucho Marx, Arnold Stang, Doro Merande, Phil Arnold, Slim Pickens, Richard Kiel, Harry Nilsson, Austin Pendleton

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It takes two to skidoo.

Plot: Ex-gangster Tony Banks is called out of retirement by mob kingpin God to carry out a hit on fellow mobster "Blue Chips" Packard. When Banks demurs, God kidnaps his daughter Darlene on his luxury yacht.



My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again? No.


Have you seen this?  It's awful and it's a bigger crime considering who's in front of and behind the camera.  I'd seen the trailer many times and I'd heard how bad it was for the past twenty plus years.  I always wondered, considering who made this, how could it be so bad.  Well, the short story is that it's wildly unfunny.  It's supposed to be a comedy but there's barely a laugh to be had.  The best parts for me were with Groucho Marx (his last film appearance).  It's a big clusterfuck of "how did this end up such a mess?"  There's plenty to read about the troubled production.  With a cast like this there's no talking me out of seeing it.  It's gonna happen.  Even though the movie doesn't work, I'm glad I saw it.  I'd love to check out a special edition DVD tricked out with loads of special features but I'll never need to see it again.  Woof.  It's a real head-scratcher.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Novocaine (2001)

Director: David Atkins

Writers: Paul Felopulos, David Atkins

Composer: Steve Bartek

Starring:  Steve Martin, Laura Dern, Lynne Thigpen, Hlena bonham Carter, Scott Caan, Elias Koteas, Keith David, Kevin Bacon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Crime Is Not Only Done By Criminals.

Plot: A dentist finds himself a murder suspect after a sexy patient seduces him into prescribing her drugs.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I haven't seen this in ages and I'm glad it's held up. This is a nice, tight and sometimes darkly funny crime thriller.  It's nice seeing Steve Martin outside of the comedy pictures.  He's fun but in a serious way.  Having seen him in a lot of movies there's some baggage that he brings that's purely that of the audience.  Because he's Steve Martin you almost automatically like him and that can help or hurt an actor.  The supporting cast is great.  Hell, there's no weak link in the picture.  The story has a lot going on.  I would suggest not thinking about anything and let the film take you for a ride.  Do you like incest?  I thought you did.  Kevin Bacon has an uncredited role of an actor researching the role of a detective and he's hilarious.  I love that guy.  The Artisan DVD has lots of extras.  You get a short piece on forensic dentistry (9 minutes), a 9 minute fluff piece on the making of the film, 5 deleted scenes, 6 excerpts from the soundtrack (including 2 by Danny Elfman and 2 from Steve Bartek, Elman's bandmate in Oingo Boingo who also provided the score), the non-anamorphic widescreen red band (and green band) trailers for the film, and trailers for 5 other movies, TV show and DVD box set, plus the director's commentary for the film.  I really enjoy this film and if any of this sounds like your bag, it's an easy purchase for under five bucks.  I picked it up at Big Lots a couple of years ago for $2 and it was a no brainer having already seen the film at that point. 


Hitler's G.I. Death Camp (2011)

Director: Steven Hoggard

Writer: Steven Hoggard

Composers: Stuart Kollmorgen, Christopher Magnum, Michael S. Patterson

Starring: Liev Schreiber

More info: IMDb

Plot: Artifacts, photographs and journals tell the story of 350 American GIs who were held at Berga, a secretive Nazi concentration camp.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

I really have a distaste for these short TV documentaries yet I keep watching them as if I'm going to get something of genuine quality.  The only thing I generally glean is learning just a little bit about something I knew little to nothing about.  The music is heavy handed and overly dramatic and they take 20 minutes worth of material and stretch it out to 44 minutes.  It's the complete opposite of most of the UK equivalent of which I'm a HUGE fan.  They know how to make interesting, compelling and informative docs.  This one feels like it's leaving a lot out.  The subject is the G.I. camp but they only spend about half the program discussing it in any kind of detail.  Every few minutes I found myself asking good questions that they failed to address (not as if I expected the TV to give me instant feedback or anything).  For example, they go through great lengths to talk about the journals that some men kept while in captivity but only give us a few scant words on what they contain.  I'm sure there are countless fascinating entries that could have been mentioned. And how were they able to keep them and how did they survive the war?  I understand there's nothing that's going to beat picking up a good book on the subject but these National Geographic, History Channel, etc. docs are only going to whisper the tip of the iceberg.  The sad thing is, with more effort they could all do a far better job in delivering the information and a lot more of it in the same amount of space.  I'm going to save more heartache with these poor episodic docs and remove them from my Netflix queue.