Saturday, August 2, 2014

Small Soldiers (1998)

Director: Joe Dante

Writers: Gavin Scott, Adam Rifkin, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: David Cross, Jay Mohr, Alexandra Wilson, Denis Leary, Gregory Smith, Dick Miller, Kirsten Dunst, Jacob Smith, Jonathan bouck, Kevin Dunn, Ann Magnuson, Wendy Schaal, Phil Hartman, Archie Hahn, Rance Howard, Tommy Lee Jones, Frank Langella, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, Bruce Dern, George Kennedy, Clint Walker, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Christina Ricci, Marcia Mitzman Gaven, Cheri Oteri

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The few, the proud, and the small.

Plot: When missile technology is used to enhance toy action figures, the toys soon begin to take their battle programming too seriously.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Probably not.

This tickled the shit out of me. I love Dante's work so it's not surprising but I figured this was going to OK at best.  Boy was I wrong.  The cast is great.  Dick Miller needs to be in everything.  It's great having the soldiers voiced by the surviving cast of THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967).  Loved it!  The action is good, and like a lot of Dante's work, there's lots of humor and it's nicely spaced with the action so there's lots of fun. I really liked how it was only good versus evil in the eyes of the toy soldiers and not the enemy and it was nice that the kid sided with Archer and his side, making the soldiers the bad guys.  That was a nice touch that elevated this above what it would have been with most anyone else in Hollywood.  Goldsmith's score is fun, too.  You'd think a movie like this that approaches two hours couldn't sustain itself but it does.  I highly recommend this one.  The Dreamworks DVD comes with some fun extras including a behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes and trailers.

Never So Few (1959)

Director: John Sturges

Writers: Millard Kaufman, Tom T. Chamales

Composer: Hugo Friedhofer

Starring: Frank Sinatra, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lawford, Steve McQueen, Richard Johnson, Paul Henreid, Brian Donlevy, Dean Jones, Charles Bronson, Philip Ahn, Robert Bray, Kipp Hamilton, John Hoyt, Whit Bissell, Richard Lupino, Aki Aleong, James Hong, Mako, William Smith, George Takei

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Kiss by kiss the time ran out and never so few were the moments left for love!

Plot: Captain Tom Reynolds and his band of skilled O.S.S. operatives are in WWII Burma to train the Kachin natives in modern warfare. But jungle combat, particularly against a Japanese army as familiar with the terrain as the Kachin, is more grueling than Reynolds had reckoned. Some respite is found in the arms of beautiful Carla, but after Chinese rebels cross the border to loot and murder American soldiers, Reynolds abandons all notions of "military protocol" and seeks requital.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

#30 on Project: Badass Charles Bronson

LEVEL OF BADASSICITY (10 being the highest): 8

After watching this I got the impression this picture was just an excuse for Sinatra to get into Gina Lollobrigida's knickers...oh, and to kill Japs, play action hero and to give the (future) Red Chinese the old what fer.  Sinatra does it all.  Look at that impressive cast!  Then add John Sturges in the director's seat!  Then watch in amazement how much time they spend making it so Sinatra can get some Italian hottie tail!  I liked the action/war stuff and the morality issues were a nice touch (except for the fact that Sinatra doesn't obey orders and often reacts by killing people and justifying it later) but there's far too much time spent on the romance.  I wanted to spend time with cats like McQueen and Bronson.  George Takei is easy to spot as is James Hong but you'll have to look closely at the tall Indian MP that McQueen beats up to see that it's the awesome William Smith.  Mako's in there somewhere but I couldn't find him.  He's in the same scenes with Takei but what I recognize him in is more than twenty years later.  Overall it's disappointing with the extraordinary amount of time getting Sinatra laid but I did enjoy it.  The Warner Bros. DVD comes with the trailer for the film and that's it. 

Charles Bronson was pure manliness and he could've tackled the Japs all on his own if the screenwriters hadn't been forced to suck Sinatra's dick enough that Bronson's role had been pared down to a few short scenes.  I guess with Sinatra's ties to the Mafia Bronson, although perfectly capable of taking them on and destroying their entire organization, didn't want to break a sweat.  And since his character gets killed, that allowed him time to nail Lollobrigida (with Sinatra watching!!!) just to prove to Frank that you can't fuck with Bronson.  One way or another, he's going to take what's yours.  What a guy!

Friday, August 1, 2014

One Day in September (1999)

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Composer: Alex Heffes

Starring: Michael Douglas, Ankie Spitzer, Jamal Al Gashey, Gerald Seymour, Axel Springer, Gad Zahari, Shimuel Lalkin, Manfred Schreiber, Walter Troger, Ulrich K. Wegener, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Schlomit Romajo, Magdi Gahary, Zvi Zamir, Dan Shillon, Heinz Hohensinn, Esther Roth, Hans Jochen Vogel, Anouk Spitzer

More info: IMDb

Tagline: 1972. The Munich Olympic Games. 121 Nations. 7,123 Competitors. Over a billion views...and 8 Palestinian Terrorists.  For the first time in 25 years, the truth is revealed.

Plot: The 1972 Munich Olympics were interrupted by Palestinian terrorists taking Israeli athletes hostage. Besides footage taken at the time, we see interviews with the surviving terrorist, Jamal Al Gashey, and various officials detailing exactly how the police, lacking an anti-terrorist squad and turning down help from the Israelis, botched the operation.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

Damn.  What a roller coaster of a ride and what a huge clusterfuck the Germans had on their hands and how they handled it.   I remembered a few things of the event but this film excels in filling in the blanks by going step by step, interviewing key people (including one of the surviving terrorists) as well as the family members of the hostages.  Most of the footage is from news crews on site as it happened.  The fuck ups are staggering.  I was gasping in awe as I watched ABC News anchors, Jim McKay and Peter Jennings, give us a play by play (this was live television) on a rescue attempt minutes prior to a deadline set by the terrorists.  Can you believe this bullshit?  No one realized that there were TVs in every room where the hostages were being held.  Yes, the terrorists knew what was going on all around them because of the fucking retarded news crews.  That's just one of many amazing blunders made during this ordeal that lasted about a day.  It's a fascinating story regardless of what side of the fence you sit.  This picture won the 2000 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature so you'd think the Sony DVD would have some decent extras, right? Well they don't.  You get cheap text 'talent files' and trailers for ANNE FRANK REMEMBERED, CENTRAL STATION and SAVIOR, none of which look particularly interesting but that could be the trailers (except ANNE) aren't well made. 

The Grissom Gang (1971)

Director: Robert Aldrich

Writers: Leon Griffiths, James Hadley Chase

Composer: Gerald Fried

Starring: Kim Darby, Scott Wilson, Tony Musante, Robert Lansing, Connie Stevens, Irene Dailey, Wesley Addy, Joey Faye, Michael Baseleon, Ralph Waite, Hal Baylor, Matt Clark, Alvin Hammer, Dots Johnson, Don Keefer, Mort Marshall, elliott Street, Dave Willock, Alex Wilson, Raymond Guth, John Steadman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The psychotic killer, the young heiress...the kidnapping that becomes a love story.

Plot: Barbara Blandish, a young Kansas City heiress, gets kidnapped by some inept local hoodlums for the diamond necklace she is wearing, and then gets kidnapped a second time by the Grissom gang demanding a million dollar ransom. The Grissoms, a family of depraved, ruthless poor white trash, is led by Ma Grissom who wants the girl dead as soon as the ransom is delivered. But plans go haywire when her psychopathic and dim son Slim falls in love with Barbara. Her billionaire father hires Dave Fenner, a cynical private detective, to find her.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? No.

It's not that bad of a picture.  The acting is pretty good and there's a good deal of story but what holds it back is the cheap look and feel of it.  Maybe BONNIE AND CLYDE ()1967) ruined it for the modern Depression-era gangster film but many scenes look like they were shot on a studio backlot and the interiors are obviously sets.  The colors pop like you'd expect for a TV show.  But sometimes it works.

And Gerald Fried's score feels like it's for TV (he did lots of TV back then).  He's a fine composer but the music sometimes feels weak or cheap.  I'm guessing all of this was due to budgetary limitations.  It's weird also because Robert Aldrich has made some great looking pictures before and after.  I'm perplexed.  The MGM widescreen DVD print looks great but it's without extras. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Director: Matt Reeves

Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Composer: Michael Giacchino

Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer, Jon Eyez, Enrique Murciano, Laramie Doc Shaw

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  One last chance for peace.

Plot:  A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

This series is great.  The first one ended with me champing at the bit to see the sequel and now I feel the same way.  I needs to see the next one.  It's not going to be tough to wait three years.  I'll have seen over 2,000 movies by then to help ease the pain.  It could go without saying at this point that Serkis is amazing.  The CGI is better than the previous film and seeing the apes ride horses is just badass.  I've only got a couple of issues.  MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD... There's no way Malcolm (Clarke) would've survived the C4 blast.  The other is Caesar (Serkis) saying "You're no ape" before letting Koba (Kebbell) go.  I dig that he let him go but I think it would have been more powerful to have held back that line and just see the expression of disappointment and hate in Caesar's face.  But that wouldn't be the Hollywood thing to do.  But then neither is making movies this good.  I'm looking forward to seeing it again and hopefully it'll be in the theater before it leaves for home video.  It's a great film in its own right and a worthy follow up to RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011).

Game of Death (1978)

Director: Robert Clouse

Writer: Robert Clouse

Composer: John Barry

Starring: Bruce Lee, Colleen Camp, Dean Jagger, Gig Young, Tai Chung Kim, Biao Yuen, Robert Wall, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mel Novak, Hugh O'Brian, Roy Chiao, Sammo Hung, Stephen Chang

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Bruce Lee challenges the underworld to a Game of Death.

Plot: A martial arts movie star must fake his death to find the people who are trying to kill him.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

The back story on this is pretty famous.  Clouse, who directed Bruce Lee in ENTER THE DRAGON (1973), was hired to write and direct a movie that incorporated the footage shot by Lee just before he died.  Clouse was given the unenviable task of trying to make it work.  Did he?  Probably as best as you could do under the incredible circumstances.  It's a reasonably entertaining movie that's part ludicrous (knowing that Lee is being played by one of two actors and almost always in disguise), which prods you for unintentional laughs, and fun.  The goods are delivered like a great money shot at the end of the picture with about fifteen minutes of fights which include one with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that you've got to see.  In the context of the movie it's the part that you've been waiting for since the flick started.  This picture really isn't that great but it's got some fum moments and it looks great plus you get a nice John Barry soundtrack which I'm always down for.  If you'd like to skip the bullshit, you can see that same sequence, unedited, in its entirety in the excellent documentary, BRUCE LEE: A WARRIOR'S JOURNEY (2000).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hercules (2014)

Director: Brett Ratner

Writers: Ryan Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos, Steve Moore

Composer: Fernando Velazquez

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Reece Ritchie, Joseph Fiennes, Tobias Santelmann, Peter Mullan, Rebecca Ferguson, Isaac Andrews, Joe Anderson, Stephen Peacocke, Nicholas Moss

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Before he was a legend, he was a man.

Plot:  Having endured his legendary twelve labors, Hercules, the Greek demigod, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Uhhhhhh, I think so?

Is the comic better?  I sure hope so.  I don't have a problem at all with the revisionist turn at the Greek Mythological figure.  Really.  It's the often poor direction, dialogue and acting that I've got an issue with.  I was looking forward to seeing Johnson as Hercules.  I thought he'd be great. He's good but not what I hoped for.  Hell, in this picture he felt like he'd be better suited to play Conan.  By the way, there's a reason he wears that breast plate.  In the one scene he takes it off you can see that he's not nearly as fit as the plate suggests.  That's no slam on him; he's still in amazing shape.  And have you ever seen abs that go up to just below one's chin?  One thing about this picture is how many scenes look like they could have used another take or two for practice.  The editing is weak in spots which changes the flow of dialogue, sometimes adding the jokes too quickly.  The big battle before Hercules finds out the truth is pretty fucking great.  And the best part of the flick for my money was Ian McShane.  He's hilarious and I love what they did with his character and his prophecies.  John Hurt also does a remarkable job.   I'm guessing there'll be an extended cut on Blu-ray and someday I might give it another look.  I am disappointed this picture wasn't better.  If Johnson comes back for another picture as Hercules, I'll see it.