Thursday, July 27, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Director: Matt Reeves

Writers: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves

Composer: Michael Giacchino

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite, Toby Kebbell, Gabriel Chavarria, Judy Greer, Sara Canning, Devyn Dalton, Aleks Paunovic, Alessandro Juliani, Max Lloyd-Jones

More info: IMDb

Tagline: For freedom. For family. For the planet.

Plot: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

My rating:  8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I respect the filmmakers of this series for putting so much care into them.  The sequels have minor flaws (or maybe even big ones but I've only seen them once) but they're well made and entertaining.  The CGI keeps getting better.  It's remarkable how real the apes appear.  Like the previous installments, there is emotional weight that is earned because you care about the characters.  The bad guy, The Colonel (Harrelson), isn't a strong character but I suppose he doesn't need to have much more than one dimension as he's simply an excuse to put the apes in the position they're in.  The ending is fine I guess.  More on that in a sec.  Michael Giacchino knocks the music score out of the park again.  This time I heard a heavy John Barry influence (70s/80s era) in his main theme in the first half of the film.  I loved it.  This guy is an amazing talent and he's the most exciting composer I've heard since Danny Elfman hit the ground running in the late 80s.  The more I think about this more I'm about to sound like a hater but the bottom line is the apes are incredibly well done inside and out.  They have great, distinguishable personalities and I care about them.  I'm looking forward to seeing this and the previous one again.  I hope they hold up.


Now that I've had half a day of thinking about this movie the more I think the writers went in the wrong direction.  You shouldn't have a title like this and not have the movie about it.  There is no war for a planet of apes.  The apes are building a wall for The Colonel to keep his human enemies out.  The apes escape and would've gotten away without any conflict if it hadn't been for the bad timing of the humans doing battle and the apes were stuck in the middle.  There is no war and the apes aren't fighting it (save for a little fight here and there).  Why is The Colonel at war with these other guys from the North?  Is he that dumb that he thinks he can win a battle cornered with his back to the mountains?  I get that he's holed up in a weapons dump but you've only got one way out and that's going to be blocked by your enemy and they've got tanks and helicopters.  That made no sense at all.  And then there's the big reason for The Colonel attacking the apes so that he can capture them to make them slaves to build his wall for protection against the tanks and artillery?  That's weak.  And how about Caesar's kid coming back with the scouting party at the beginning of the film with a bag of sand telling them they've found a great place for them to live (you know, the desert which is where we found them in the 1968 original film)?  Would apes really rather live in the desert where there are few trees?  Wouldn't, oh you know, the forest or jungle be more suitable?  It's a weak way to have this one link to the '68 film as if there were not going to be any more Apes movies.  But you could also make the case that at least they tried. 

Deadfall (1993)

Director: Christopher Coppola

Writers: Christopher Coppola, Nick Vallelonga

Composer: Jim Fox

Starring: Michael Biehn, Sarah Trigger, Nicolas Cage, James Coburn, Peter Fonda, Charlie Sheen, Talia Shire, J. Kenneth Campbell, Michael Constantine, Marc Coppola, Micky Dolenz, Brian Donovan, Renee Estevez, Ted Fox, Angus Scrimm

More info: IMDb

Tagline: ...The ultimate con

Plot: After he accidentally kills his father, Mike, during a sting, Joe tries to carry out Mike's dying wish by recovering valuables that Mike's twin brother Lou stole from him years earlier. But Uncle Lou is also a confidence artist, and Joe is soon drawn into his increasingly dangerous schemes.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

OK, so there are a lot of reasons why you need to see this and it begins and ends with Nicolas Cage.  Yeah, this is the worst performance I've ever seen from Michael Biehn but it's a lot of the cats around him that make this the fun ride that it is.  Geez, he's so bland and his narration is just awful.  Anyway, you've got Angus Scrimm is channeling Sydney Greenstreet (the fat man from CASABLANCA (1942) and he's nailing it!  I actually liked Martin Sheen for a change.  He's very cool and smooth.  Blink and you'll miss Peter Fonda.  James Coburn is all through this and he's just a class act no matter how you slice it.  I love that guy's work. But the biggest you've-gotta-see-this-'cause-of is Nicolas Cage.  He's batshit bonkers and he steals every scene he's in.

See?  The story is fine and fast so it feels like you're in and out pretty fast.  The ending is satisfying, too.  The low IMDb reviews are ridiculous.  It's actually a good deal of fun and there are so many familiar faces that you'll be entertained by them alone.  Check this one out.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Composer: Hans Zimmer

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

More info: IMDb

Tagline: At the point of crisis, at the point of annihilation, survival is victory.

Plot: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

DUNKIRK forgoes any character development to concentrate on the gravity of the situation.  We don't need to feel a connection to any of these people because we should care about all of them as they're all in the same boat so to speak.  We want all of these men to make it home alive.  That means the film can stay focused the bravery of these people and get a glimpse of what it must've been like.  We get the perspective from those who contributed from the land, air and sea and there's an interesting device used to convey a sense of time.  As each of the three is introduced, there's a title card that tells us the time frame.  The land operation takes place over a week, the sea a day and by air an hour.  Writer/director Nolan doesn't waste time.  The film opens with nearly 400,000 soldiers waiting on the beach to be rescued and an effort to enlist civilian boats has begun.  What follows are men dying and others struggling to survive.  Zimmer does a fine job with the score.  He doesn't provide melodic themes so much as augmented, droning, atmospheric sound.  It worked nicely.  While it's only an hour and forty-six minutes long (including several minutes of end credits) nearly the entire picture is that struggle meaning it's constant tension.  It's not the grand slam the internet tells me it is but I like it very much.  I don't know what could've been different for me to like it even more but it might have something to do with being emotionally invested in the main characters.  As it is, the only reason why I cared about them is because I don't want to see the good guys lose.  Besides, they all needed to get home quick so they can rest up and get back to giving the Jerrys what fer!

You Can't Win 'Em All (1970)

Director: Peter Collinson

Writer: Leo Gordon

Composer: Bert Kaempfert

Starring: Tony Curtis, Charles Bronson, Michele Mercier, Patrick Magoo, Fikret Hakan, Gregoire Aslan, Leo Gordon, John Alderson, Tony Bonner, Horst Janson, John Acheson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Two soldiers of fortune matching wits and guns against the armies of two nations!

Plot: During the 1922 Turkish Civil War, two Americans and a group of foreign mercenaries offer their services to a local Turkish governor who hires them as guards for a secret transport.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

#49 on Project: Badass Charles Bronson

LEVEL OF BADASSICITY (10 being the highest): 9

Charles Bronson in his prime at 49 in 1970.  'Nuff said.  I'm surprised I hadn't seen this one before but that's OK because, as one of my favorite action heroes, I welcome every opportunity to see a Bronson picture for the first time (well, almost).  This one is fun.  Bronson smiles a lot and looks to be enjoying himself.  I like that rarely seen side of him.  Tony Curtis plays his usual happy go lucky, always on the make with the ladies character that he played so often during this period which is fine as he's very good at it.  Bronson grins and kicks a lot of ass but it's Curtis that provides the occasional laughs and some of his reactions are very, very funny.  There's plenty of outdoor war action going on and the location shooting in Turkey makes this even more special and different.   Patrick Magee is fourth billed but he doesn't show up until the last 6 minutes.  He probably put in one day's work for a nice little paycheck.  The Turkish landscape is beautiful and I can't say enough about how refreshing it was to see such a different type of landscape and period this film was set.

As you can see by the above video, Bronson logs in 41 kills.  He would've had more.  In fact, not many people know this but it was in his contract that he would get all of the kills in every movie because he felt, and rightfully so, that no one would ever believe that any of his co-stars would be able to get a kill in while Bronson was on the job.  It's still hard for me to accept that his kill count isn't in the hundreds.  It turns out that behind that super masculinity and solid testosterone lies a compassionate man so, at least for this picture, he was generous enough to allow Curtis to get a couple of lethal shot in and some of the other cast members.  I guess he felt bad for some of his crew that didn't get any speaking lines so he told the director, producers and studio that some of the other fellas can shoot some mofos dead.  It's a little known story but I swear it's true because I just made it up.  Another top Hollywood secret is that the studios would allow scenes in his romantic comedies where he would off a bunch of lowlifes only to have the footage end up on the cutting room floor.  Bronson never knew this as he wouldn't watch his own movies and it was only after his death that that little piece of skulduggery was leaked out.  They even waited 8 years to release it for fear that a freshly deceased Bronson was still a lethal Bronson. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Traveling Executioner (1970)

Director: Jack Smight

Writer: Garrie Bateson

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Starring: Stacy Keach, Marianna Hill, Bud Cort, Graham Jarvis, James Slyan, M. Emmet Walsh, John Bottoms, Ford Rainey, James Greene, Sam Reese, Stefan Gierasch, Logan Ramsey, Charles Tyner, William Mims, Val Avery, Walter Barnes, Charlie Briggs, Paul Gauntt

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  1918. The year this man traveled the South with a portable electric chair.

Plot:  Stacy Keach is an ex-con who in 1918 travels around the bayou with a portable electric chair. At $100 a head, he renders his services with loving care. But then he falls for a female "client".

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

What an unusual film this is.  Stacy Keach is fantastic.  He knocks it out of the park.  He's got two tender, passionate monologues, one at the beginning and one at the end.  It's good stuff.  I dig the setting of 1918 Louisiana, although it was filmed in Alabama and it could've just as well have taken place there.  It's a quirky film that gets even more odd when Jonas (Keach) cooks up a scheme to free Gundred (Hill) and he has to come up with a lot of dough to grease a few palms at the prison.  In his desperation he makes a big mistake and his predicament goes south and fast.  The final twenty minutes is some of the best work in the picture and it's worth sitting through everything else (even if you don't dig it as much as I did) just for the final act.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Murder Clinic (1966)

Original title: La Lama nel Corpo

Director: Elio Scardamaglia

Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi, Luciano Martino, Robert Williams

Composer: Francesco De Masi

Starring: William Berger, Francoise Prevost, Mary Young, Barbara Wilson, Philippe Hersent, Harriet Medin, Germano Longo, Massimo Righi, Delfi Mauro, Anna Maria Polani, Rossella Bergamonti, William Gold

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Bloodletter! Bone-chilling! The thing is subhuman and it has a knife!

Plot: Patients and staff of an isolated mental hospital are being killed off by a hooded maniac who stalks the halls.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I don't think the Giallo genre is for me.  I've liked so few of them and the rest often have pacing issues.  This picture looks fantastic.  The period look rivals that of Hammer.  De Masi's score has some really nice moments.  The acting (I watched an English dub) gets a tad too dramatic at times but it was fine for what it was but I just couldn't stay engaged.  It took a few attempts to get through it.  On paper and considering that it looks like a high quality picture, I expected more...and that's while I'm watching it, thinking this is going to be good as it unfolds.  I'll say this much, they kept me guessing who the killer was and I reckon I wasn't disappointed by the ending so much.  Geez, this was slow.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Homicidal (1961)

Director: William Castle

Writer: Robb White

Composer: Hugo Friedhofer

Starring: Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, Alan Bunce, Richard Rust, James Westerfield, Gilbert Green, Joan Marshall, Wolfe Barzell, Teri Brooks, William Castle, Joseph Forte, Ralph Moody, 'Snub' Pollard, Hope Summers

More info: IMDb

Tagline: SPECIAL "FRIGHT BREAK" * There will be a special FRIGHT BREAK during the showing of "Homicidal." Can your heart stand the challenge when the clock starts the COUNTDOWN?

Plot: The brutal stabbing murder of a justice-of-the-peace sparks an investigation of dark family secrets in a sleepy small town in Southern California.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

This is William Castle's answer to Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) and it's not a bad one at that.  I'm not going to spoil anything and I recommend that if you're ever going to watch this to not allow yourself to be spoiled.  The ending is a great mind fuck and I was pleasantly surprised that it caught me off guard.  I LOVED the ending.  For most of the picture I was wondering if they'd have a good conclusion to all of this because it was a mixed bag for most of it.  The acting is good enough except for one actor and that one person bugged the shit out of me.  You get a great kill in the first twenty minutes that was harsh considering it was coming from Castle.  The mystery is a good one but it's the ending that makes it great.  I can't help but go apeshit for the ending.  Anyway, Castle just has to have a gimmick so he puts a clock on the screen near the end and warns the viewer.  That was awful.  Any tension he'd built up to then was ruined with that one move.  For me it boils down to some really great scenes and ideas marred by that gimmick of the warning clock and the general lower budget and filmmaking.  Had this material been handled with great seriousness to maximize the horror and suspense, it would be a classic.  I'm sure a European filmmaker could've done justice with this material.  As it is though, it's still a fun ride with one hell of a climax.