Showing posts from 2017

Grindhouse (2007)

Over the years, due to rising prices, the declining quality of movies and, honestly, lack of time, I have begun to see movies in the theater less and less.  I still enjoy going out for the monthly Cult Classics shows we have in Arizona, as well as seeing the some of the newer movies after being assured that I'm not just flushing my money away.

I think Gindhouse may have been the only movie I saw at a theater in 2007, for a combination of the above reasons and also the fact that I was in extreme pain in my lower right back.  I would love to say seeing this movie was what finally cured me, but it's more truthful to say that I was willing to sit through the whole thing despite of it (it was moving apartments which, somehow, fixed things; I guess whatever got displaced slipped back after hauling my record collection up stairs once again).

I have always liked cult films, so to have Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino (as well as a number of other directors doing the fake trai…

Disco Godfather (1979)

Coming across a Rudy Ray Moore movie unknowingly is a mixed bag.  At the time of viewing this, the only one I had seen was The Human Tornado, which struck me as somebody's vanity project.  Dolemite will get watched and reviewed here at some point, but, for me, a little of his "acting" goes a long way.

After watching Disco Godfather, though, I realized how important he was, silly movies aside.  His status in the African-American community at the time this movie was made puts it into much more perspective.

Tucker Williams (Moore) is an ex-cop that has opened the Blueberry Hill Disco and become the Disco Godfather.  A local celebrity and DJ, his club is now the most renowned in the city, and it understandably draws both good and bad elements.  The bad elements are pushing PCP to the inner city youth, a fact that Williams becomes aware of when his nephew Buck (Julius Carry), an up-and-coming basketball star, freaks out in his club and has to be hospitalized.

Williams begins…

Not of This Earth (1988)

In the late 1980s direct Jim Wynorski bet Roger Corman that he could remake the 1957 movie Not of This Earth for the same budget (adjusted for inflation) and on the same time scale.  I have no idea who won the bet, but what resulted was the same movie, except with more modern dialogue and references, as well as a good deal of nudity.

To promote it, Traci Lords, fresh off her scandal of making a series of adult movies while underage, was cast in the lead.

An alien (Arthur Roberts) travels to Earth and hides under the name of Mr. Johnson.  When he seeks help for his blood condition from Dr. Rochelle (Ace Mask), he decides to hire nurse Nadine Story (Lords) to attend him privately for twice-daily blood transfusions.  Through mind control, he sets Dr. Rochelle on the path of trying to find him a cure, while being unable to tell anyone about Mr. Johnson's strange nature.

Transfusions are not enough, and Mr. Johnson finds himself going around town to get the blood of animals and peopl…

Starcrash (1978)

I remember back when I was a kid and Knight Rider was in its first run that I noticed Starcrash playing on the late show.  Even at that age I recognized it for what it was, and barely got through five minutes before shutting it off.  Needless to say, the reason I was even curious was because of David Hasselhoff, and I never even made it to any of his parts. 

I also never made it to Caroline Munro in a leather bikini, which may have changed my mind at that point if I did. 

Over the years I have seen this come up in many lists of bad movies that just have to be seen.  I finally got around to watching the whole thing and, as my luck would have it, right when it was coming up (unbeknownst to me) as an episode on the new Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Needless to say, they had a great time with it, and it was one of the highlights of the new season.

Stella Starr (Munro) and her navigator Akton (Marjoe Gortner) are fleeing from Imperial police when they come across an Imperial launch that …

The Thing (1982)

It should come as no surprise that remaking older films is as old as film making itself.  The popular versions of The Wizard of Oz and Ben-Hur are themselves remakes, as are many films that people don't really expect (the Will Smith version of I Am Legend was the third take on the Richard Matheson book, for example).  While many of the remakes are just as good (or even superior) to the originals, cashing in on the original is always the point. 

What many forget is that you can cash in and still make a great movie.  That is exactly what John Carpenter did with 1982's The Thing, a remake of 1951's The Thing from Another World, itself based on the novella Who Goes There? by John Campbell. 

The boredom and peace of an American scientific outpost in Antarctica is shattered when a helicopter from a nearby Norwegian base lands, apparently in pursuit of one of a sled dog.  After one of the research team is shot, Garry (Donald Moffat), the head of the facility, kills the man, whil…

The Black Godfather (1974)

Blaxploitation may be one of the most misunderstood genres.  While initial movies like Superfly and Shaft received mainstream audience and critical attention, much of the attention seemed to focus on the violent aspects of the films - so much that many devolved into self-parody over the next few years.  However, while they had their initial run, it proved two things: anyone who had some ambition, a few friends and a camera could possibly make a decent profit on an independent film, and American audiences, regardless of race, were becoming open to some of the ideals within these movies.

I understand that many of the messages about racism, second-class treatment of African-American citizens and police brutality got lost among the sex and violence, but they were there.  Many of the movies featured flawed heroes, but heroes none-the-less.  They were all human beings, and that resonated with white audiences - a little too well in the end, since it was ultimately white audiences being a bi…

The Nude Bomb (1980)

Get Smart! is one of those comedies from the 1960s that one can still appreciate.  It was one of the few that got making fun of James Bond and its imitators correctly, while being surprisingly innovative and exciting at the same time.  The fact that Mel Brooks was involved had more than a little do with it, but all the writers did a good job in keeping the show consistent.  And, of course, there was always Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, adding both sexiness and competence in her pairing with Maxwell Smart (Don Adams). 

The show lasted until 1970.  Brooks had moved on to making hit movies, and American television was moving on as well.  Still, the show remained popular in reruns so, 10 years later, a Get Smart! movie still sounded like a great idea.  The Nude Bomb is a prime example of how Hollywood is often a place where great ideas go, get a job waiting tables, get discovered, get worked over and then crawl away to die in a flophouse. 

Maxwell Smart may no longer be in CONTROL, but he s…

The Burglars (1971)

The big Hollywood heist film, largely known for its larger-than-life antiheroes, stuntwork and long, drawn-out car chases.  Before the action film changed to what most of us are familiar with in the 1980s, the above largely began to define American films from the late '60s and into the 1970s.  From well-regarded films such as Bullitt and The French Connection to hangers-on like Grand Theft Auto, it became a source of escapist entertainment for American audiences and something for critics to hang their disdain on.

After all, European films (if you consciously ignored most mainstream films coming out of England and Italy) were so much more intellectual, right?  This was real cinema. 

Except it turns out that European audiences like their heists and their car chases just as much as we do.  That is why Le casse, released under the English title The Burglars, had the biggest opening in France up to that time.  Give art its due, but seeing Jean-Paul Belmondo jumping between buses to es…

Predator (1987)

I am starting to realize what an effect 1987 had on me.  First, since I was 15, my parents really weren't caring if I watched R-rated films anymore as long as they weren't loaded with sex.  That was fine, since I liked horror and sci-fi anyway, and if an actress happened to show off what she had, that was a bonus.  Still, at the time, R-rated films still meant something, and that something was that directors went all out to entertain audiences that were starved for these outrageous action films.

Thing is, even though PG-13 existed by this time due to parents freaking about about Gremlins in a microwave, a facial peel in Poltergeistand impromptu heart surgery in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, R-rated films were still largely aimed at the audience that PG-13 is aimed at now.  It was pretty much accepted that, even though you were supposed to be 17, most likely the audience was going to be 12 on up to 50, and they better have something in there that entertains everyone.


RoboCop (1987)

At the time that RoboCop came out in 1987, Peter Weller was largely known for the cult movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.  Honestly, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who already a hit playing a similar cyborg (albeit evil) role in The Terminator, was among the actors first considered for the role of resurrected Detroit police officer Alex Murphy.  Like most casting choices after the fact, I have hard time imagining any other actor playing RoboCop other than Weller.

There are many pieces that come together to make this a classic film: Paul Verhoeven's frenetic directing, the over-the-top violence and the underlying satirical edge.  However, both in this and the first sequel, it is Weller that keeps things together, expressing a humanity that can't be submerged by either programming or corporate malfeasance. 

RoboCop is also the kind of movie that could have come out of the time it did, which makes any attempt at a neutered remake laughable.

Officer Alex P. …

Arrival (2016)

These days with Hollywood largely churning out superhero films (with the Marvel ones usually being halfway decent at least), giving every character of every franchise their own film and, way too much, churning out empty big-budget nonsense that is no longer even really meant for an American audience, those of us who enjoy "The Cinema" grasp at whatever we can.  I've never been as pretentious and single-minded as some critics, liking as I do quite a few films that usually end up being good despite the people and the circumstances that made them - many of which the majority of the film going public (and critics) consider utter trash. 

Every once in awhile a director shows up that starts to buck current trends, and Denis Villeneuve is one of them.  He is in no way a new director.  A number of his original Canadian films are highly regarded, and he already established a reputation in the U.S. with Sicario prior to Arrival.  Originally when I heard about Arrival, though, I a…

Backtrack (1990)

Dennis Hopper was one of the most recognizable actors.  His idiosyncrasies seemed to translate to his characters regardless of the role he was asked to play.  He played a number of different roles from his debut in Rebel Without a Cause to famous villains in everything from Speed to Super Mario Brothers.  

What many people who grew up with him as a character actor in the 1980s and 1990s forget is that Hopper, after doing his time on television in the 1960s, decided that what he really wanted to do was direct.  And direct he did - Easy Rider quickly became one of the most famous American road movies, as well as a statement about the life and death of the '60s counterculture. The problem was twofold: Hopper, outside and inside of filmmaking, was an artist first, and it seemed that his other goal in life was to do all the drugs that Keith Richards managed to let slip by.

Easy Rider was hours of footage, made largely under the influence, which was edited down to the form we know.  His…

The Boondock Saints (1999)

Troy Duffy is among those directors who have managed to push out a classic (albeit cult) film despite his tendencies to self-sabotage.  Unlike Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), Duffy hasn't been given much of a chance to prove himself beyond this film, his only other movie being the 2009 sequel which, although not as good as this, was at least not a pretentious muddle.

That said, Duffy, if the documentary about the making of this film is to be believed, is his own worst enemy behind the scenes.  Miramax wanted the screenplay and was willing to sink a good amount of money into it, but Duffy began acting like a Coppola before he had even filmed anything and lost that deal.  The deal he made with Franchise left him, and his cast, without the home video earnings, which is where The Boondock Saints eventually made a profit.  The film had the bad luck to come out soon after the Columbine High School shootings, and thus debuted in only a handful of theaters. 

Duffy also seems to have had a …

The Exorcist (1973)

Sometimes circumstances just come together to make a classic movie.  Director William Friedkin's previous film had been The French Connection, which had one of the most famous car chase scenes up to that point (and inspired many more throughout the 1970s) as well as a great performance by Gene Hackman.  It also had a rather unique pseudo-documentary style that set Friedkin's movie apart from similar crime and action films.

William Peter Blatty had a bestseller on his hands with The Exorcist, seemingly a horror novel about demonic possession but heavy on themes of faith and family.  Through numerous circumstances the two Williams became friends, with Blatty adapting his novel into a screenplay and Friedkin directing.  It became one of the biggest movies of 1973, as well as a horror classic that is revered to this day despite four attempts to destroy its legacy through sequels that run the gamut from painful to just dull, one of them by Blatty himself. 

It is also a movie that …

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Ever since the Harry Potter series ended, fans have been clamoring for more.  Thing is, the fans have grown up since following the team at Hogwarts.  J. K. Rowling perfectly timed her series of seven books so that fans who started reading at the age that started at the beginning of Harry's adventures aged with him.  The books got darker and more adult as they went along.

Because of frequent press releases from Rowling, we know largely what happened to Harry, Ron and Hermione over the years, and a recent play has even kept us up to date.  This is despite Rowling originally intending to abandon the Potter universe for more traditional fiction.  It didn't work out as well as she intended, and I am sure the money to do another series was irresistible. Therefore, we have the beginning of a five-part series based on one of Hogwarts's textbooks, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander. 

We already have seen what problems both Hagrid and Charles Weasley have ca…