Sunday, August 30, 2015

Stage Door (1937)

Director: Gregory La Cava

Writers: Morrie Ryskind, Anthony Veiller, Edna Ferber, George S. Kaufman

Composer: Roy Webb

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, Constance Collier, Andrea Leeds, Samuel S. Hinds, Lucille Ball, Franklin Pangborn, Ann Miller

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Brilliant In Cast And Story

Plot: Terry Randall, rich society beauty, has decided to see if she can break into the Broadway theatre scene without her family connections. She goes to live in a theatrical boarding house and finds her life caught up with those of the other inmates and the ever-present disappointment that theatrical hopefuls must live with. Her smart-mouth roommate, Jean, is approached by a powerful producer for more than just a role. And Terry's father has decided to give her career the shove by backing a production for her to star in, in which she's sure to flop. But his machinations hurt more than just Terry.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably.

I really miss the old days of the 30s (as if I were there or something) when a lot of movies had machine gun fast delivery and the quips flew like bullets on St. Valentine's Day.  This picture opens with a bang and the dialogue doesn't let up for a half hour.  I was almost exhausted if I hadn't been so entertained.  Not only is the dialogue and pacing marvelous, the performances sparkle.  The roomful of talented actresses work their lines (and the room) like it's as natural as breathing. They're an awful lot of fun.  And how about that emotional home run delivered by Terry (Hepburn) near the end?  Hokey smokes!  That speech had me all teared-up something fierce.  Wow!  What a great flick!  The Warner Bros. DVD has a few extras including a musical short, UPS AND DOWNS (1937), the theatrical trailer and the 1939 broadcast of this film as performed by Ginger Rogers and Rosalind Russell. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mouse Hunt (1997)

Director: Gore Verbinski

Writer: Adam Rifkin

Composer: Alan Silvestri

Starring: Nathan Lane, Lee Evans, Vicki Lewis, Maury Chaykin, Eric Christmas, Michael Jeter, Debra Christofferson, Camilla Soeberg, Ian Abercrombie, William Hickey, Christopher Walken

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Who's hunting who?

Plot: Two stumblebum inheritors are determined to rid their antique house of a mouse who is equally determined to stay where he is.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not but I wouldn't be opposed to it.

For years I figured this was nothing more than a silly kids movie until the insistence of a friend praised it above that.  Nathan Lane is fucking hilarious.  Period.  The film plays out like a live action cartoon short from the 40s and 50s and it works perfectly well as that.  I also dig the sense of time and place and how it's got one foot in the 40s and one in the 90s with its spare use of technology.  It's a silly film where the jokes don't always land but that largely depends on your penchant for slapstick comedy.  Enough of the gags work and there are enough laugh out loud moments to make it worth while.  I adore Lane in this and if you love his funny then that's all the ammo you need to want to see this now.  I'm glad I did.  It's currently streaming on Netflix.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Krull (1983)

Director: Peter Yates

Writer: Stanford Sherman

Composer: James Horner

Starring: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Francesca Annis, Alun Armstrong, David Battley, Bernard Breeslaw, Liam Neeson, John Welsh, Graham McGrath ,Tony Church, Bernard Archard, Robbie Coltrane

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A world light-years beyond your imagination.

Plot: A prince and a fellowship of companions set out to rescue his bride from a fortress of alien invaders who have arrived on their home planet.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

The film opens with a rousing orchestral score from James Horner that clearly feels like it's much bigger and better than the film deserves.  It's a hell of a lot busier than the visuals.  Like a lot of Horner's scores, you'll hear elements (and almost entire themes) he's used before (and again).  Despite that, it's a fantastic score that goes a long way in selling the film and making it more enjoyable than it would have been with any number of other composers that were doing lower budget fantasy films at the time.  Low budget you say?  IMDb says the budget was $27M.  That's a fuckton of money for 1983.  STAR WARS had a budget of $11M AND that was six years earlier.  The effects in KRULL are cheap looking in comparison.  It has that sci-fi space TV show look from BUCK ROGERS and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.  But let's forget about that.

Was it fun?  Yeah, a little.  I could have done without the pandering to kids by having a kid in it and the silly sorcerer wannabe.  It was fun seeing early roles for Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane.  The stop motion translucent spider was badass!  The action was OK and some of the sequences were too long (like the extended finale that just wouldn't quit).  Lots of people died with barely any emotion from the survivors.  I know what you're saying, "But hey, Jim the Movie Freak, they had more important things on their minds like the quest to save the planet and shit."  Yeah, there's that but they also had way too many things that trivially slowed them down.  If they were hell-bent for leather to finish the quest then they would've stayed more focused.  It's a mildly amusing film that had Horner's score entertaining me more than anything else.  It's taken more over thirty years to get around to watching it.  I'm surprised I didn't see it in the theater but I played the ever-loving shit out of the arcade game way back when.  I wouldn't mind dropping a few more quarters into that machine.

The Columbia special edition DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with a few extras with two commentaries (one cast and crew and the other behind the scenes) and a 22-minute featurette on the making of narrated by Tom Bosley of all people.  What's funny about is how the beginning and end of it tries really hard to put this film up there with the great films of fantasy. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (2013)

Director: Nicholas D. Wrathall

Composer: Ian Honeyman

Starring: Gore Vidal, William F. Buckley, Thomas Gore, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, David Mamet, Jay Parini, Tim Robbins, Robert Scheer, Nina Straight, Eugene L. Vidal, Joanne Woodward

More info: IMDb

Tagline: "The United States Was Founded By The Brightest People In The Country - And We Haven't Seen Them Since."

Plot: This is an unashamedly opinionated film. In Gore Vidal's America, the political coup has already happened. The right have triumphed and the human values of the liberals have been consigned to history. But how did this happen and who organized it? In this film Gore Vidal's acerbic, opinionated and informed approach rips away at the facade of the new America. The film dramatizes Gore's political views and his concern at the present state of American democracy using interviews and historical footage of his famous appearances on television and talk shows over the last fifty years. In the recently filmed interviews Gore examines the course of American history and policy making and draws dramatic conclusions on the fate of the nation in the modern age.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I love this guy. He's one of those brilliant types that you'd want to hang out with all the time just to hear what he has to say about anything and everything.  He's clever, witty, so very eloquent and funny as shit.  His words could be scathing yet sound like poetry and he could insult you in a way that gets to the core and probably in such a way that you wouldn't suspect it. This film captured him shortly before his death.  There are also loads of vintage clips and interviews.  The film paints a positive picture on the man and his legacy. I don't know if there was every any major controversy surrounding the man but it doesn't matter.  I was so taken in by him that I'm very keen on reading his work which is saying something as I read very little but watch an incredible amount of film.  I highly recommend this.  It's currently streaming on Netflix.  Hopefully the eventual DVD/Blu-ray release will have loads of extras.  If so then it will find a permanent home in my collection.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Meek's Cutoff (2010)

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Writer: Jonathan Raymond

Composer: Jeff Grace

Starring: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Neal Huff, Tommy Nelson, Rod Rondeaux

More info: IMDb

Plot: Three wayward families are traveling across the Oregon desert in 1845 led by Stephen Meek, an ignorant mountain man. The farther they go, the more lost they seem to be and the farther they are from water - which they are in desperate need of. Some of the travelers start questioning Meek's knowledge and leading abilities, and at that time a native Indian appears on the horizon. Presumably from the area, the families must decide if they want to put their trust in the Indian to lead them to water, or if they should continue to trust Meek since the Indian may just lead them to danger.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Nice!  Great performances, locations, cinematography and so on.  For a while it doesn't feel like there's much of a story but that works out beautifully because you're allowed to see wordless moments of mundane daily tasks of settlers making their way across the West.  That there's very little music (and what's there feels as dry and harsh as the desert which is perfect for the picture) makes it even better.   It's a quieter film than you'd think but that's one of the things I liked most about it.  Oddly, it was filmed in 1:37.  I wonder why it wasn't shot in a wider format, especially considering the locale.  Maybe the wider screen would have given it a certain level of romanticism that the filmmakers were wanting to avoid.  The ending isn't typical either.  We don't get a conclusion but it's more about leaving the party much like we found them.  You won't recognize Bruce Greenwood from his bushy beard and his accent.  The Oscilloscope DVD doesn't have much for extras.  There's a 9-minute making-of featurette that has very little dialogue and none of it is from anyone telling us anything.  It's all footage of the film being made without any clear narrative as if it's just a bunch of extra stuff cobbled together for the sake of having something.  Other than that there's the theatrical trailer (fullscreen, of course) and 7 trailers for other Oscilloscope films.  It'd be nice to have a commentary since the extras are light but it's still worth checking out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best (2011)

Director: Ryan O'Nan

Writer: Ryan O'Nan

Composer: Rob Simonsen

Starring: Ryan O'Nan, Michael Weston, Arielle Kebbel, Andrew McCarthy, Jason Ritter, Wilmer Valderrama, Christopher McDonald, Melissa Leo, Jake Miller, Charles Chu, Philip Ettinger, Steven Boyer, Charlie Hewson

More info: IMDb

Plot: Underachiever Alex (O'Nan), recently dumped by his girlfriend, reluctantly embarks on an impromptu road trip with his new and eccentric bandmate, Jim (Weston). By channeling their inner children and giving a new meaning to the term lo-fi, Alex and Jim find their unique style by bringing the sound of children s instruments to their unsuspecting fans. Playing a series of bizarre shows, and experiencing multiple near-disasters, Alex and Jim's determination takes them on a true coming-of-age journey one that may be their last shot at achieving their childhood dreams.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again? No.

The first bit in the trailer is the best and funniest moment in the picture.  Michael Weston (as Jim, the goofy guy who plays the toy instruments) is hilarious and I wanted more of him.  He's absent from most of the last half hour and he's really missed.  When it's up to Alex (writer/director/star O'Nan) to carry the film where he's trying to deal with loss and discovering what's most important to him, it drags a lit but it stays engaging if not a little disjointed.  SPOILERS IN THE KEY OF D really was kind of lonely not having Jim around and Cassidy just disappears into thin air at this point, too.  This gives Alex some time to spend with his religious brother's family (Brian played by Andrew McCarthy who still looks great).  Alex hangs out with Brian's 10-year-old son which is nice but it's when Cassidy just shows up to announce Jim's grandfather died and Jim is going to a rough venue to perform solo for the battle of the bands competition, that's when it gets typical Hollywood.  While I liked the upbeat tone (it doesn't end like you think it will but it's close) I would have almost preferred Cassidy to stay out of it and watch Alex make it on his own, even if making it finds him re-teaming with Jim.  END OF SPOILERS...YARRRRRRR! While I didn't find it entirely satisfying, it's a nice little picture that has a few good laughs in the first half hour before it gets into self-discovery, let's learn some life lessons mode that will likely be more satisfying to kids in their twenties.  The Oscilloscope DVD has some extras including a 16-minute making of featurette, a couple of minutes of outtakes, 28 minutes with the boys performing 3 songs and giving a Q&A at a film festival, two short films (TAG SALE SALVATION (about 3 minutes) and SWEET SOUNDS OF CASIO (5 minutes) (both of which are pretty cute), the theatrical trailer (anamorphic widescreen) and trailers for four other Oscilloscope films.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)

Original title: Wyrmwood

Director: Kiah Roache-Turner

Writers: Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner

Composer: Michael Lira

Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill, Luke McKenzie, Yure Covich, Keith Agius, Catherine Terracini, Berynn Schwerdt, Meganne West, Cain Thompson

More info: IMDb

Plot: Barry is a talented mechanic and family man whose life is torn apart on the eve of a zombie apocalypse. His sister, Brooke, is kidnapped by a sinister team of gas-mask wearing soldiers & experimented on by a psychotic doctor. While Brooke plans her escape Barry goes out on the road to find her & teams up with Benny, a fellow survivor - together they must arm themselves and prepare to battle their way through hordes of flesh-eating monsters in a harsh Australian bushland.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

OK, this film requires A LOT of suspension of disbelief to the point the movie is ruined if you start to nitpick it.  And there's no explanation on how things happen (like the psychic thing or the flammable blood, etc). That doesn't mean it's a deal killer but I can easily see how a lot of folks will be bothered by this, myself included.  However, it is rather fun. There are some good laughs, neat kills, lots of blood and so on.  I have to give the film makers some credit, they did a great job with what they had to work with.  It's a great looking picture and I really liked the locations.  One thing that bugged me (other than what I listed above) is that the film was constantly shifting in and out of focus on the foreground and background.  Maybe it was done to add a little something style-wise to the flick but it would have been much more effective if it was used sparingly instead of all over the place.  It's not that bad of a picture and it's truly worth watching just for Leon Burchill who plays Benny.  I loved that character.  It's on Netflix streaming right now so if you've got it and you're a horror fan, at least check out the Australian zombie picture for the good things it does and try to get through the not so good.