Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Swordfish (2001)

Director: Dominic Sena

Writer: Skip Woods

Composers: Christopher Young, Paul Oakenfold

Starring: John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Sam Shepard, Vinnie Jones, Drea de Matteo, Rudolf Martin

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Log on. Hack in. Go anywhere. Steal everything.

Plot: When the DEA shut down its dummy corporation operation codenamed SWORDFISH in 1986, they had generated $400 million which they let sit around; fifteen years of compound interest has swelled it to $9.5 billion. A covert counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell, headed by the duplicitious and suave Gabriel Shear, wants the money to help finance their raise-the-stakes vengeance war against international terrorism, but it's all locked away behind super-encryption. He brings in convicted hacker Stanley Jobson, who only wants to see his daughter Holly again but can't afford the legal fees, to slice into the government mainframes and get the money.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It was OK when I saw it fifteen years ago (and then it was to see what the hubbub was about with Halley Berry baring her chest...it was nice) and it's surprisingly better now.  At least it's entertaining albeit over the top.  Travolta is in full on having-fun-Travolta-bad-guy mode and that helps.  Nothing dates a movie like technology and the computer hacking is utter bullshit but you have to take it like it's a dumb Hollywood movie.  The heist action is fun.  It's no classic but it is fun to a degree. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

Original title: Apocalypse Domani

Director: Antonio Margheriti

Writers: Antonio Margheriti, Dardano Sacchetti

Composer: Alexander Blonksteiner

Starring: John Saxon, Elizabeth Turner, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Cinzia De Carolis, Tony King, Wallace Wilkinson, Ramiro Oliveros, John Geroson, May Heatherly, Ronnie Sanders

More info: IMDb

Tagline: An American City Terrorized by Crazed Flesh-Eating Killers ... An Unbelievable Nightmare!

Plot: Giovanni Lambardo Radice and John Saxon are Vietman vets that bring back contagious virus that turn people into cannibals when bitten.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

See!  Vietnam flashbacks!  See!  A 15 minute shootout at an indoor flea market!  See!  Not much in the way of cannibal action or cannibals in general.  For about the first hour I was getting a little cheesed because I popped this in looking for some cannibal action and there's hardly anything like that.  The title doesn't lie.  It's got an appropriately bleak ending and everything that happens before is almost futile.  The title doesn't lie so I guess it was my brain filling in all kinds of possibilities of what this would be.  I didn't see the trailer until after the film.  If you go into it looking for a horror thriller that's more like a zombie apocalypse then you're more likely to enjoy it from the beginning.  Once I realized that that was what it was (with a half hour to go) I started to dig it more.  Saxon does a fine job in the lead and there are some fun scenes (like the biker chase and subsequent flea market shootout) but it's not the kind of picture I can see anyone revisiting much or at all.  If you digs on some Italian horror/exploitation then this is a must see but you won't exactly be telling your friends about it.  The score has some nice moments.  The Studio Canal/Image DVD (from their EuroShock Collection) has a great anamorphic widescreen print.  They've lined up some great extras.  You get a 55 minute making of documentary, a 6 minute tour of the filming locations, the European theatrical trailer and Japanese teaser trailer, poster and still galleries, an alternate U.S. opening sequence and a text treatment on the film's censorship issues.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cry Terror! (1958)

Director: Andrew L. Stone

Writer: Andrew L. Stone

Composer: Howard Jackson

Starring: James Mason, Inger Stevens, Rod Steiger, Neville Brand, Angie Dickinson, Kenneth Tobey, Jack Klugman, Jack Kruschen, Carleton Young, Barney Phillips, William Schallert

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A Los Angeles Crime Saga

Plot: A group of professional bank robbers start to feel the heat from police when they unknowingly leave a clue at their latest heist.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

What a cast!  Here's a good crime thriller that stays pretty solid except for one thing, the inner thought narration from Mason and Stevens.  It's the kind where they vocalize what they're thinking in terms of how to get out of this hostage situation.  Have you ever wondered why it's always a 'situation' when it comes to hostages and never anything else like a hostage kanundrum?  Anyway, the narration is annoying and it gets old fast.  The performances are good and it's great seeing Steiger not overdoing it as the villain.  Brand plays a great bad guy and he's more reserved than he became a decade later.  I'm not sure I ever saw Klugman play a bad guy but he's fun and so is Dickinson.  Hell, it's just a great cast all around and a very satisfactory ending.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Get Bruce (1999)

Director: Andrew J. Kuehn

Composer: Michael Feinstein

Starring: Bruce Vilanch, Whoopi Goldberg, Bette Midler, Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Lily Tomlin, Raquel Welch, Michael Feinstein, Shirley MacLaine, Florence Henderson, Steven Seagal, Michael Douglas, Paul Reiser, Roseanne Barr, Carol Burnett, Billy Crystal, Marc Shaiman, Tim Curry, Traci Lords

More info: IMDb

Tagline: These stars know Hollywood's best-kept secret!

Plot: Affectionate tribute to Bruce Vilanch, who writes material for celebrities who make public appearances, from Oscar hosts and award recipients to Presidents. We meet his mom and see photos of his childhood; in Chicago, he writes for the Tribune and then heads West. Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, and Bette Midler talk with him and to the camera about working with Bruce, and we also watch Bruce help others prepare for Liz Taylor's 60th, Bill Clinton's 50th, and an AIDS awards banquet where the hirsute, rotund Vilanch lets his emotions show.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Hilarious.  If you've never heard of Bruce Vilanch, you've probably seen him.  He's hilarious and but he's also incredibly skilled at writing jokes for everyone and that's not easy.  You have to consider the person's personality, profession, abilities and then there's the event they need the funny for.  Of course this breathing documentary is all about him but we gear a great deal from his friends, the top performers in the entertainment world, and you know all of them.  He's loved by everyone.  One of the MANY highlights is Robin Williams spontaneously riffing about Jack Benny and Rochester being the stars of THE X-FILES.  He slayed me.  Bette Midler...I can't get enough of her.   You're going to get a little bit of Vilanch's history but the stories from his professional years, and thankfully it's most of the film, are fucking great.  I'd love to hang around with this guy.  I usually have at least one great laugh every single day.  I think he'd shatter the bell curve.  As of 4/19 it's on Netflix. 

Starship Troopers (1997)

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Writers: Edward Neumeier, Robert A. Heinlein

Composer: Basil Poledouris

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Clancy Brown, Seth Gilliam, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside, Rue McClanahan, Dean Norris, Amy Smart, Dale Dye, R. Lee Ermey

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Genocide doesn't compare to this.

Plot: Humans in a fascistic, militaristic future do battle with giant alien bugs in a fight for survival.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

When I first saw this in the late 90s I didn't like it one bit.  Now I'm a fan of Verhoeven but this just felt cheap.  Now I get it.  It's a throwback to 50s sci-fi flicks and it totally works.  I enjoyed it much more this time around.  I still don't think it's a great film but it is fun.  I like it but not enough to give the sequels a try.  It looks like it all went downhill after this one.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Negotiator (1998)

Director: F. Gary Gray

Writers: James DeMonaco, Kevin Fox

Composer: Graeme Revell

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse, Ron Rifkin, John Spencer, J.T. Walsh, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Paul Giamatti, Regina Taylor, Bruce Beatty, Michael Cudlitz, Carlos Gomez, Tim Kelleher, Dean Norris

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Chicago's two top negotiators must face each other. One of them is holding hostages. The other is demanding surrender. And everyone's holding their breath.

Plot: In a desperate attempt to prove his innocence, a skilled police negotiator accused of corruption and murder takes hostages in a government office to gain the time he needs to find the truth.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe, but I think twice is the magic number.

It's been ages since I saw this last and it wasn't as good this time but not by much.  It's a good crime thriller with a great cast doing a fine job, the tension is nicely handled and the pacing is good but it gets better and faster once the shit hits the taking hostages fan.  There are some clever little turns in the script but you might just fell them coming just before you turn the bend if you're thinking like Danny (Jackson).  The only real issue I have with the picture is that the story asks a little too much of your suspension of disbelief.  The last half hour (which feels like it lasts longer) has Danny & co. doing some far fetched things that you know there's no way these things would happen in real life.  I can take that to a point and this picture goes past that a couple of blocks.  It's still a fun film with a great cast doing a great job.  The Warner Bros. DVD gives you a nice anamorphic widescreen print with the only extras being trailers for four films (2 each with Jackson and Spacey).

Rocky (1976)

Director: John G. Avildsen

Writer: Sylvester Stallone

Composer: Bill Conti

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Thayer David, Joe Spinell, Jimmy Gambina, Bill Baldwin, Al Silvani, George Memmoli, Jodi Letizia, Stan Shaw, Frank Stallone, Lloyd Kaufman, Frank Stallone Jr., Joe Frazier, Michael Dorn

More info: IMDb

Tagline: You have a ringside seat for the bloodiest bicentennial in history!

Plot: Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight the heavy-weight champion, Apollo Creed, in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Man, I haven't seen this flick in probably 35 years and it's just a great as it ever was but then I couldn't remember much about it.  It's a shockingly simple story, something a lot of film makers and Hollywood have forgotten how to make.  If it were made today, there'd be a lot more crap going on to make it out to be something bigger than it needs to be like having the local mobster Rocky works for getting more involved in Rocky's affairs so he's battling on two fronts.  There's a lot to like but it's Stallone's script and performance that makes this as special as anything else.  Rocky is one of the most instantly likable characters out there.  He's so down to Earth and you always know what he's feeling.  You couldn't ask for a better underdog to root for.  His monologue to Adrian the night before the fight (a scene that Stallone had to fight to keep in, by the way) gets to the heart of the character and the movie.  And in that one moment he sets up the emotional one-two punch the ending delivers.  Hell, I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.  It's a wonderful piece of film making from every angle and it's not surprising that it made Stallone into one of the biggest movies stars of the 20th Century.  I've only ever seen the first two films and ROCKY BALBOA (2006) (which is as good as the first one).  A couple of years ago I picked up the MGM Blu-ray box set, The Undisputed Collection, that has all 6 films.  I was shocked to see that, while there are a good deal of extras, there's no commentary track which makes me wonder if either ever did one for a previous release.  I'm looking forward to making my way through this series, for better or worse.  At least I know it ends on a high note.  I can't wait another 35 years to see this one again.