Monday, August 29, 2016

Code Name Emerald (1985)

Director: Jonathan Sanger

Writer: Ronald Bass

Composer: John Addison

Starring: Ed Harris, Max von Sydow, Horst Buchholz, Helmut Berger, Cyrielle Clair, Eric Stoltz, Patrick Stewart, Graham Crowden, George Mikell, Gabriel Barylli, Peger Bonke, Tony Rohr

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Double agent.  Double cross.  Trained by the Americans.  Trusted by the Nazis.  One man holds the secret to the invasion of Normandy.

Plot: In April 1944, an allied agent is sent to France in order to rescue an "overlord" captured by the Germans. (An "overlord" is one of the few men who know the date and place of the "D" day). To achieve this goal, he will be supported by a secret friend of the Allies, a very important German officer and the French resistance. But the SS is not resting...

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Here's a somewhat interesting and effective thriller about a subject I was not aware of (Overlords of WWII).  The performances are solid and hold up as the best part of the film.  I could completely do without the romance sub-plot for a couple of reasons, the first of which is that there's plenty of far more interesting things going on that could have been utilized instead of Gus (a professional) letting something like that get in the way as much as it did.  It felt like their relationship was played up much more than needed, especially when you consider how much of a pro he was to get so distracted.  Anyway, it's worth noting that this is the first theatrical film produced by NBC.  So what?  Well, it often feels like a big budget TV miniseries more than it does a theatrical film.  That also means it's got a stageyness to some of the interiors.  It's still a good thriller with a lot of nice moments (particularly for Harris and Stoltz).  It's worth a look but keep your expectations low enough to be pleasantly surprised by it.  With a cast like this you're going to want to see it.

Red Planet Mars (1952)

Director: Harry Horner

Writers: John L. Balderston, Anthony Veiller, John Hoare

Composer: Mahlon Merrick

Starring: Peter Graves, Andrea King, Herbert Berghof, Walter Sande, Marvin Miller, Willis Bouchey, Morris Ankrum, Orley Lindgren, Bayard Veiller

More info: IMDb

Tagline: SEE! The first contact between Earth and Mars!

Plot: An American scientist is able to contact and communicate with Mars with shattering political, economic, and spiritual repercussions.

My rating: 5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The 'red' in the title doubles as the Red Scare/Russian threat at the time this picture was made, complete with relating the USA with Christianity early on.  There's also the battle between science (wanting to advance civilization 1,000 years) and the government (wanting to keep the Ruskies from getting a leg up on us).  If you're looking for outer space picture with martians and groovy models then you're going to be very disappointed.  Nobody leaves Earth.  But if sci-fi loaded with talky-talky, you just might dig it.  On the latter level it almost works.  There are some interesting ideas bandied about but it's HEAVY on Christianity.  It's the God-loving Americans versus the heathen Russians.  If it weren't for that last bit I'd be more inclined to like it a little more but it's such an obvious piece of propaganda that the film is hurt by it.  I REALLY liked the last few minutes where Calder (well-played by Berghof, the evil nasty man) confronts Chis and Linda (Graves and King).  There's some neat and dire shit talked about...until they hit you over the head with the God stuff.  But then shit gets real and people die.  I LOVED that part.  Then it's back to God with the President of the US addressing the world.  The film seems to play to the sheep or children which is curious as it's only adults who might get all the way through it without falling asleep.  For kids, it's got to be a snoozefest.  So I guess if you like your sci-fi heavy on the Jesus, then you might dig this picture, and if you do, you'll probably stand and salute with a tear in your eye when it's all over.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Black 6 (1973)

AKA: The Black Six

Director: Matt Cimber

Writers: Matt Cimber, Mikel Angel

Composer: David Moscoe

Starring: Robert Howard, Cindy Daly, Mikel Angel, John Isenbarger, Gene Washington, Carl Eller, Lem Barney, Mercury Morris, Willie Lanier, Joe Greene, Garnett Higgens, Bill King, Marilyn McArthurs

More info: IMDb

Tagline: See the 6 biggest, baddest and best waste 150 motorcycle dudes!

Plot:  A gang of six black Vietnam veterans fight white racists in a Southern town to avenge their dead friend.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

On paper, this sounds like a great revenge, action-filled, Blaxploitation picture that would be awesome to see as a drive-in double feature.  While it does have those elements, there's a lot more attention paid to the social race aspect than anything else.  It's half exploitation and half social issues and, to a large degree, it works.  The Black 6 are made up of real life NFL players, many of whom made their acting debut here.  I like them and I dig that they're not seasoned actors because they bring something authentic to the role that you wouldn't get otherwise.  That also means it gets a little amateurish but it's in a good way.  If I had to single out my favorite performance it would be Hannah Dean who plays the lead's mother.  She's about as genuine as it gets and this is only her first of four films she made.  The low budget nature suits this film just fine.  I wasn't once bored, even if there's very little action (which most of it was saved for the big fight at the end).  The plot moves nicely even if it doesn't fit a conventional mold.  For instance, we're a long ways into the picture when Bubba (Washington) investigates his brother's unsolved murder which doesn't take as long as you'd think before the big fight at the end.  There's not much time spent with the bad guys.  But then we don't have to hang with them long.  We know from the opening of the picture that these guys are bad and they need to be dealt with.  This isn't Shakespeare.  I've seen this twice now and it's one of the better low budget Blaxploitation pictures to come out of the 70s.  It's a fun ride that has be benefit of inexperience from different aspects to the cast and crew.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Gone in 60 Seconds 2 (1989)

Director: H.B. Halicki

Writer: H.B. Halicki

Starring: H.B. Halicki

More info: H.B. Halicki Wiki

Plot:  A man hijacks a semi and leads hundreds of cops on a destructive chase.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe (I've already seen it twice).

Since this is footage put together from a movie that was never finished, you just have to watch this as one long 30-minute car chase.  It's a good one.  There are times when you have to kick in your suspension of disbelief (like when the semi plows into 20 or more parked cars and doesn't slow down one bit) but that's not too much to ask I guess.  Halicki was a stunt master like no other when it came to cars.  His GONE IN 60 SECONDS (1974) is a masterpiece in car chases (don't watch the widescreen version where his widow replaced the songs and score with crap and also changed the original car sounds - you're better off with the original fullscreen VHS version).  He was in the middle of shooting this film when an unexpected accident took his life.  The chase is fun and Halecki and pals crash a shitload of cars and motorcycles.  That goes on for about twenty minutes when he switches vehicles and takes The Slicer out for a spin.  At first it's ridiculous and goofy looking but that only lasts a few seconds until you get to see what it's capable of.  Then it's pure badass.  Fans of car stunts shouldn't pass this one up.  It's not polished but don't let the low budget get you down.  Halecki tears some shit up and there are lots of get stunts that shouldn't go un-noticed.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Highwaymen (2004)

Director: Robert Harmon

Writers: Craig Mitchell, Hans Bauer

Composer: Mark Isham

Starring: Jim Caviezel, Rhona Mitra, Frankie Faison, Colm Feore, Gordon Currie, Andrea Roth, Noam Jenkins

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Terror hits the road

Plot: Rennie Cray (Caviezel) embarks on a bloodthirsty rampage to avenge the death of his wife who was struck down by a serial killer - a man who hunts and kills women using his '72 El Dorado.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

Gee whiz.  What a letdown.  There's a good movie to be made from this really neat and simple premise but the one I just watched is rather dull.  A lot of the car stunts are really great.  That's the best part.  Caviezel is bland and a tad too dramatic.  Mitra is fine I suppose.  It's always great to see Frankie (Barney from the Hannibal Lector films) Faison in anything.  It's been ages since he showed up in anything I've watched.  The story has a great idea of having a serial killer using his car as his weapon but some of the wind gets knocked out of it when you see that the killer is all cyborg'd out like he's still in the hospital.

What's worse is that he's in a wheelchair.  Rennie (Caviezel) gives us all of the details, by way of telling Molly (Mitra), halfway into the picture.  When he starts talking of how he put Fargo (Feore) in the hospital and Fargo is released months later but covered in metal traction shit and gets back on the road to kill, I was laughing.  But you're not supposed to be laughing and his description wasn't enough to prepare me for when I saw Fargo all done up for the first time minutes before the movie ends.  This could have been and should have been so much better.  Chalk it up to another missed opportunity.  This came three years before Tarantino's much better DEATH PROOF (2007).  The New Line DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with the only extras being the trailer for this film (also anamorphic widescreen) and anamorphic widescreen trailers for THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (remake) and FREQUENCY.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

True Lies (1994)

Director: James Cameron

Writers: Claude Zidi, Simon Michael, Didier Kaminka, James Cameron

Composer: Brad Fiedel

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Art Malik, Eliza Dushku, Grant Heslov, Charton Heston, Marshall Manesh

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When he said I do, he never said what he did.

Plot: A fearless, globe-trotting, terrorist-battling secret agent has his life turned upside down when he discovers his wife might be having an affair with a used car salesman.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

It's been ages since I last saw this and I'd forgotten how brilliantly awesome and fun this picture is.  I think you'll find in Writing a Screenplay 101 that you only include scenes that further the story.  If it doesn't move the plot then it needs to go.  The first half hour has our heroes going after the bad guys.  Suddenly all of that takes a backseat to focusing on Harry's (Schwarzenegger) suspicion that his wife, Helen (Curtis), is cheating on him and that's where we spend the next third of the movie without hardly a word spoken about the big terrorist threat.  Then it's back to the business at hand as we finish the picture.  Technically it sounds all wrong but Cameron & Co. make it one hell of a fun ride which makes that diversion insignificant.  The action is fantastic (blowing up the bridge was amazing), the humor is hilarious (Tom Arnold deserves a lot of credit for what he brought to the film) and the actors are having a blast.  Curtis is as sexy as she is funny and everybody wins.  One thing I noticed this time was how nice it was not to get the usual Schwarzenegger quips after he offs somebody.  The silence was sweet.  This really is a super fun ride.  Unfortunately there's no friggin' Blu-ray.  The 20th Century Fox DVD has the film in non-anamorphic widescreen which is unacceptable.  Oh, and the only extra is the trailer.  Very weak considering how good and popular this movie is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Siren of Bagdad (1953)

Director: Richard Quine

Writer: Robert E. Kent

Composer: John Leipold

Starring: Paul Henreid, Patricia Medina, Hans Conried, Charles Lung, Laurette Luez, Anne Dore, George Keymas, Michael Fox, Karl 'Killer' Davis, Carl Milletaire

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Very, Very Gay! When the Sultan's Away, and the Royal Magician Starts to the Harem!

Plot:  Kazah the Great (Henreid), a magician heads a troupe of girls and acrobats traveling in Arabia. The girls are stolen by Sultan El Malid (Lung), and Kazak joins forces with Zendi (Medina), the daughter of the rightful sultan that was deposed by Malidi to get the girls back and rid Bagdad of the evil Malid.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Well this was a lot more fun that I expected.  I've never seen Paul Henreid in a comedy and boy is he having fun in this one!  The film works partly because the actors are having a blast.  What's more is you've got a lot of jokes that land.  I laughed more than I thought I would, as in laughed out loud.  As is standard for even a big studio B picture, the costumes and set design are colorful and fun.  After seeing this flick I can see why there has been civil unrest in the Middle East for thousands of years...the chicks are smokin'!!!

The gal in the red in the last picture isn't even credited.  Kazah (Henreid) puts Ben Ali (Conried) into the magic box and transforms him into this hottie but she still has Ben Ali's voice.  The IMDb trivia says her name is Vivian Mason.  She's fucking hilarious.  She jumps into the middle of the dancers and tries her best to fit in but she's as clumsy as Ben Ali would be if he were still in male form.  She's brilliant in the few minutes she's on screen.  A short 73 minutes is all you get with this one and that's all you need.  I wish more movies knew when to quit when they should.  I recorded this off of TCM many years ago and finally got around to it.  This is one of those pictures that would be great on a rainy, quiet afternoon or back in '53 with a double feature, Warner Bros. cartoon, a Three Stooges short and a chapter from the latest serial (even though serials were a dying breed at this point).