Monday, May 30, 2016

There Was a Crooked Man... (1970)

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Writers: David Newman, Robert Benton

Composer: Charles Strouse

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Hume Cronyn, Warren Oates, Burgess Meredith, John Randolph, Lee Grant, Arthur O'Connell, Martin Gabel, Michael Blodgett, C.K. Yank, Alan Hale Jr.

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Once upon a time, there was a crooked man. When he was good, he was very, very good. And when he was bad, it was murder...

Plot: A charming but totally ruthless criminal is sent to a remote Arizona prison. He enlists the help of his cellmates in an escape attempt with the promise of sharing his hidden loot.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.


What the hell was this?   First of all the tone is fucked up.  Charles Strouse's score is inappropriately silly.  He hit the film scoring scene with BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) so he's essentially known for more of a pop music score guy at this point.  It worked beautifully for B&C but not for this one.  My biggest issue with the picture is the odd tone.  If the filmmakers took it more seriously this could be a pretty damn good flick.  Hell, it's got a great friggin' cast.  Douglas is fun but he's also an asshole who's only out for himself.  The movie's just over two hours and a half hour from the end his escape plan is enacted.  During this several minute sequence the shit hits the fan and people silly music.  And they die horrible.  It's pretty harsh and for some of them it's not cool how they snuff it.  Normally this wouldn't be an issue with me but the music contradicts the visual making me wonder if Strouse knew what the hell he was doing.  This is an instance where the score severely hurts the film.  I'm willing to bet that the right composer would've been able to make something much better out of this.  I can't blame the composer entirely.  There were other people involved that should've stepped in and done something about it.  Or it's possible that this is exactly what the director, producers and studio wanted.  The Warner Bros. DVD delivers a nice anamorphic widescreen print with 3 extras - a ten minute vintage making of featurette and the trailer for this film and one for THE DUKES OF HAZZARD: THE BEGINNING (both non-anamorphic widescreen).  Really?  The Dukes of fucking Hazzard straight to video movie?  I'm flummoxed.

Popeye (1980)

Director: Robert Altman

Writer:  Jules Feiffer

Composer: Harry Nilsson

Starring: Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall, Ray Walston, Paul Dooley, Paul L. Smith, Richard Libertini, Donald Moffat, MacIntyre Dixon, Roberta Maxwell, Donovan Scott, Bill Irwin, Linda Hunt, Dennis Franz

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Haves a happy holiday wit me an' Olive!

Plot:  Popeye arrives in the seaside town Sweethaven in search of his long-lost father. Popeye finds that the town is governed by the pirate and big bully Bluto.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

Wow.  I haven't seen this since the theater 35 years ago.  I still remember some of the songs, the finale with the octopus fight and Pappy saying "haul ass" a lot.  And that's what I enjoyed on this viewing.  It's cute for kids.  The casting is spot on and the sets are amazing.  They did a fantastic job in recreating the world of Popeye but there's something missing that keeps this from being so much better than it is and I can't figure it out.  Maybe it needed to be more quickly paced or shorter.  Beats me.  One of the best bits for my money is the under the breath dialogue from Popeye.  It's just like it was in the old cartoons from the 40s.  I loved that about the original shorts.  It's a cute film but it's also somewhat of a misfire even if it's not all that bad.  The Paramount DVD sports a great looking anamorphic widescreen print with no extras. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Battlestar Galactica (1978)

Director: Richard A. Colla

Writer: Glen A. Larson

Composer: Stu Phillips

Starring: Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, Lorne Greene, Herbert Jefferson Jr., Maren Jensen, Tony Swartz, Noah Hathaway, Terry Carter, Lew Ayres, Wilfrid Hyde-White, John Colicos, Laurette Spang, Jane Seymour, John Fink, Ray Milland, Ed Begley Jr., Rick Springfield, Patrick Mcnee

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The super-reality of SENSURROUND takes you into an intergalactic war...Experience the sensation of laser beams, space explosions and battlestar attacks...all in Academy Award winning SENSURROUND.

Plot: After the destruction of the Twelve Colonies of Mankind, the last major fighter carrier leads a makeshift fugitive fleet in a desperate search for the legendary planet Earth.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I watched the show religiously when it first aired.  It was my weekly outer space fix until I could see another STAR WARS movie in the theaters.  It satisfied me then but I could see the difference in quality.  But these were the days before home video and that's how you took it.  The Ronald Moore reboot is utterly amazing.  It's one of the best shows front to back that's ever been.  Now I'm starting to go back to the original to see how it holds up.  As a show, it's still fun and I can appreciate it as an adult.  As a movie, it's obvious that this is a compilation of the first few episodes as there's a complete story shift halfway through.  It's because of this that it doesn't work as well as one that would've been written to last two hours long with one sustained plot.  This would work a lot better divided.  The Universal DVD presents the film in non-anamorphic widescreen.  It's a flipper disc so the extras are on the other side.  All you get is a behind the scenes look at the making of the video game, a sneak preview into the reboot mini series and three trailers for stuff you won't care about.  Really?  They put that crap on one side and omitted anything that has anything to do with the movie you bought?  Boneheads.

Harsh Times (2005)

Director: David Ayer

Writer: David Ayer

Composer: Graeme Revell

Starring: Christian Bale, Freddy Rodriguez, Eva Longoria, Chaka Forman, Tammy Trull, J.K. Simmons, Michael Monks, Samantha Esteban, Tania Verafield, Noel Gugliemi, Adriana Millan, Geo Corvera, Cesar Garcia, Terry Crews

More info: IMDb

Plot:  A tough-minded drama about two friends in South Central Los Angeles and the violence that comes between them.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Good flick.  The performances are good but it's hard to like Jim (Bale) as he's not a good person and he's very fucked up time bomb waiting to go off.  When he does, it's a tense ride until the end.  Freddy Rodriguez was great.  It's a difficult film to watch in that you want these characters to succeed but they're so screwed up in the way they haven't really grown up.  These two cats aren't good for each other.  They've got inflated dreams that will never come true and it's their fault and no one else's.  It's frustrating seeing people like that on or off the big screen. The Mirimax DVD has a few extras with 7 deleted scenes, a commentary with Ayers and 6 trailers in English and 4 in Spanish (nice touch).

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Director: Barry Levinson

Writer: Chris Columbus

Composer: Bruce Broughton

Starring: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins, Susan Fleetwood, Freddie Jones, Nigel Stock, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Earl Rhodes, Brian Oulton

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Before a lifetime of adventure, they had the adventure of a lifetime.

Plot: When assorted people start having inexplicable delusions that lead to their deaths, a teenage Sherlock Holmes decides to investigate.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably.

I've been wanting to see this for thirty years and I only just got around to it.  Good flick.  The acting is wonderful, the story is compelling, the special effects (including the first CGI character) are great and Bruce Broughton's score is delightful and weighty.  I thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish.  The production values and art design are fantastic.  It really gives you a sense of time and place and it puts you right in there with Holmes and Watson.  This is a high recommend.  I'm really surprised this film isn't better represented considering the quality and the talent in front of and behind (produced by Steven Spielberg et al) the camera.  The Paramount DVD has a great looking anamorphic widescreen print with not a single extra.

Two of a Kind (1951)

Director: Henry Levin

Writers: Lawrence Kimble, James Gunn, James Edward Grant

Composer: George Dunning

Starring: Edmond O'Brien, Lizabeth Scott, Terry Moore, Alexander Knox, Griff Barnett, Robert Anderson, Virginia Brissac

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They tried to draw the line .............. just this side of MURDER!

Plot:  A lawyer for a rich elderly industrialist works out a complex inheritance scam to pass off a con as the industrialist's long-lost son and claim the huge inheritance.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I like popping in pre-1960 crime/noir pictures without knowing anything about them beforehand.  They're rarely ever terrible and I generally dig them more often than not.  This one's on the short side (about 75 minutes) and it flies by seemingly faster than that.  Brandy (Scott) gets down to business once she starts working the man she's been tracking all over the U.S., Michael (O'Brien).  It starts to get serious and dark when she tells him he has to get the tip of his finger amputated before she'll give him the details of the caper.  That's a tall order.  Once you find out why it makes total sense and it seems like a good play.  Like a lot of good plans in these pictures, it doesn't go as expected.  I like the tone of the film until Kathy (Moore) enters and brings teenage optimism in to offset the darkness.  I could've done with less of her and more of the nastiness in the scheme but it's not something that ruins the film by any stretch.  Some might find the ending too optimistic as well.  I'm OK with it but it would be neat to see an alternate version that took the plan closer to completion and some folks ending up dead.  This is one of four films on the Bad Girls of Film Noir set from Columbia. The extras you get are a 7 minute interview with star Terry Moore (and she doesn't even mention this film until literally halfway in) and trailers for this film and the other film that shares this disc, THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK (1950).

Friday, May 27, 2016

Kull the Conqueror (1997)

Director: John Nicolella

Writer: Charles Edward Pogue

Composer: Joel Goldsmith

Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Tia Carrere, Thomas Ian Griffith, Litefoot, Roy Brocksmith, Harvey Fierstein, Karina Lombard, Edward Tudor-Pole, Douglas Henshall, Joe Shaw, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Terry O'Neill, Pat Roach

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Son of Conan

Plot: A barbarian warrior becomes a king when he defeats a king in armed combat and the king's heir conspire to overthrow him and reclaim the throne by resurrecting an evil sorceress.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This picture shares a lot with the 80s CONAN & RED SONJA movies.  It was produced by the De Laurentis family and they're all based on characters created by Robert E. Howard.  This one feels at home in that world and it's got some reasonable fun.  The cast is fine but there's some cheesy acting sometimes.  Joel Goldsmith's score is fun and I really liked the rock guitar moments.  It's corny but it works.  The special effects run the spectrum from good to worse but the pacing is good and the filmmakers knew they weren't making art.  It really helps to watch this on the biggest screen possible and with a room full of people not afraid to goof on it.  It would've helped if this were rated R with more violence and throw in some nudity.  Sorbo looks great topless but so would some of the gals.  The Universal DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print but the only extra is the theatrical trailer (non-anamorphic widescreen).