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Showing posts from June, 2023

The Warriors (1979)

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It is strange that a director like Walter Hill, known for a number of cult films as well as some true Hollywood hits, really has no particular style as a director.  That isn't to say his best movies aren't dripping with style, but he moves from one project to another letting the story play out or the actors do their things.  Many of his films have a grittiness to them, and his best ones, like The Warriors, Streets of Fire and 48 Hrs. all seem to take place largely at night.   While 48 Hrs. may be Hill's most financially successful film, The Warriors is the one that established him as a cult movie hero.  Based on a book from 1965 written by Sol Yurick, as well as portions of The Odyssey and  Anabasis , the latter about Greek mercenaries trapped behind the lines in Persia trying to make it back home against all odds.  At its heart is a rather simple chase story, but Hill and cinematographer Andrew Laszlo present nighttime New York as a deserted wasteland ruled by all sorts o

Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)

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Deadbeat at Dawn does not at first seem like a movie from the 1980s.  Its guerilla filming techniques and grittiness seems straight out of '60s biker films and '70s exploitation.  It is the product of a man named Jim Van Bebber who spent four years making it, "borrowing" equipment from the local university that he dropped out of after one year.  It was made with regional talent, largely in Dayton, Ohio with a few scenes in Cincinnati.  Everyone - especially Van Bebber - did their own stunts, including fight scenes where it appears punches were not always faked.  In the end he created something flawed but unique and memorable. Goose (Van Bebber) is the leader of a gang called the Ravens.  After a fight with rival gang leader Danny (Paul Harper) of the Spiders, Goose is badly injured and has to be nursed back to health by his girlfriend Christy (Megan Murphy).  Worried that at some point he will get killed she encourages Goose to quit his gang life and settle down with

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

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I'm not going to get into the history of the Dungeons & Dragons games, other than they are something I always wish I had played.  I've never had a circle of friends that were interested - or, I should say, interested in letting me join - so never got the chance to get involved in campaigns and such.  Like most people who play video games, though, I am aware of some of the basics, since D&D character generation pretty much forms the base for any role playing game, whether it be fantasy, science fiction or even shooters.   One thing D&D does have that is unique is a world with specific monsters, races and classes.  Some of the older books featured graphic depictions of the various creatures and that was one of the things that caught my eye early on.  Some of it was obviously influence by J.R.R. Tolkien and traditional legends, but there were some truly ingenious ones like the Gelatinous Cube, a blue cube that blocks corridors and slowly creeps along, digesting anythin

Se7en (1995)

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I remember going to see Se7en with not a lot of knowledge of what it would be about past the fact that there was a serial killer murdering people based on the Seven Deadly Sins.  It pretty much says so on the poster, and happily by the time the was released they had stopped trying to promote the movie based on some of the more schmaltzy work done by both Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman.  I never held Alien3 against David Fincher, knowing that he wasn't given much control over how he made that film, so my main point of reference for how he could be as a director was based on his video for Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun".   Se7en definitely shows a lot more of the style he brought to that video, and it is evident from his better movies that it is dark themes that brings out the best in him.  In this case it was a script by Andrew Kevin Walker, who had been shopping it around for a while before it got picked up.  A lot of what was in the script made it to the movie, so

The Exorcist III (1990)

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I was surprised to find The Exorcist III coming up on lists of favorite horror movies.  I know I've read William Peter Blatty's book Legion , and that was sometime after I originally saw the movie in the early 1990s.  Largely I read Legion  not because I remembered anything specific about Blatty's film, but rather because The Exorcist itself was a great book.  To be fair I don't think I've ever read anything by him except the two novels and, suffice it to say, I remembered pretty much nothing about Legion as well. I think part of the problem was the marketing on the movie.  After John Boorman's laughable The Exorcist II: The Heretic no one had attempted to carry on the series.  Even the Italian rip-off versions pretty much dried up.  Linda Blair, who had played Regan MacNeil in the first two movies, had a slapstick movie with Leslie Nielsen called Repossessed scheduled to come out around the same time as Blatty's film.  On his end, although the book was mean

Them! (1954)

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The idea of mutations from the result of nuclear testing was one that Hollywood ran with in the 1950s.  Atomic power and radiation was something that fascinated and frightened the public, since with the Soviets gaining the ability to make hydrogen bombs and the arms race that followed the Cold War was something on the back of everyone's minds.  On the other hand, harvesting the power of the atom was something that appeared to have limitless potential for technology and the advancement of humanity if we didn't use it to turn the world to ash.  Typically mutations take one of two forms.  Homo sapiens, for instance, are the result of a mutation that favored a number traits present in our ancestors that eventually gave our branch of hominids an advantage over all the others.  In many cases mutations, particularly those caused by radiation or in-breeding, do little more than lead to a short, painful life.  In the imagination of Hollywood writers it meant insects and other animals gr

Lord of the Flies (1963)

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Even if one likes literature and reads all the time high school English classes can be frustrating.  Most curriculums have a certain number of named books and short stories that must be taught to students.  One of those is Shakespeare and, to be honest, as much as I love the Bard most of that love came after having a smattering of experience with learning the actual history of the English language and enough experience reading other English works of the time so that the language Shakespeare wrote in could be understood properly.  He may have been writing for the common man, but so are most playwrights and novelists, and it is sometimes difficult for students to understand a book written in the 1950s, much less the latter part of the 16th century.  There were exceptions to the rule when it came to slogging through a national education consensus on what constitutes a classic.  Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery", for instance, and Victor Hugo's Les miserables  were highligh

Troma's War (1988)

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Lloyd Kaufman, like all purveyors of exploitation films, is a bit of a carnival barker.  He is well aware of the type of movies he is financing, distributing or directing, and he also knows specifically who his audience is.  That is why even among those who enjoy independent or fringe cinema Troma films are sometimes a niche taste.  Pretty much anyone watching one is prepared for what they are going to see, as the pattern is pretty much set from The  Toxic Avenger forward.   What is surprising is when Troma starts slipping into the mainstream.  The Toxic Avenger was made largely because the sex comedies the Kaufman directed and produced, and that were a mainstay of the company, started becoming mainstream with the advent of Porky's .  It was similar to the reason Herschell Gordon Lewis made Blood Feast , as Hollywood had caught up with exploitation films at the time, so to get audiences the producers of "nudie cuties" had to do something new.  Where Blood Feast was limit

Salem's Lot (1979)

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I have been a fan of Stephen King since elementary school, having read Pet Sematary first and many of his contemporary books around the same time.  I hate to say that I was an adult before I started looking into his first few books beyond the Richard Bachman novels and his collections of short stories.  While I had seen the movie versions of  Carrie , 'Salem's Lot and The Shining I had never sat down to read the novels.  I have no idea why that was, other than the guy just writes so much that there may always be something out there I missed. Carrie was a pulp novel, much like his Bachman stories, but didn't seem so much like an exploitation piece as those did.  It was definitely helped by Brian De Palma's movie, which is one of the few adaptations of his work that is better than the source material.  Salem's Lot I half-remembered from seeing on television in 1979 on a small black and white television, while The Shining might as well just say that it was inspired by

April Fool's Day (1986)

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By the time April Fool's Day made its appearance the slasher genre was pretty much played out.  Jason and Freddy still had some life in them, but the genre had long deteriorated into cheaper and cheaper productions with the same repetitive plots.  There had already been one parody early on, Student Bodies , that also made fun of giallo films along the way, but the genre was long do for a proper send-up. Muffy St. James (Deborah Foreman) has invited all her college friends to her family's summer house for the weekend.  This includes her cousin Skip (Griffin O'Neal), recent new acquaintances Nan (Leah Pinsent) and Harvey (Jay Baker), as well as couples Rob (Ken Olandt) and Kit (Amy Steel) and Chaz (Clayton Rohner) and Nikki (Deborah Goodrich), along with Muffy's former boyfriend Arch (Tom Wilson).  It's April Fool's Day, so everyone is having fun playing pranks on each other until it results in Buck (Mike Nomad), the son of the ferry owner (Lloyd Berry), getting s

One Cut of the Dead (2017)

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This may be one of the hardest movies to review simply because getting in depth ruins the entire experience.  The one thing I can say is the general conceit behind the first third of the movie - a zombie film done in one continuous shot - is ambitious, and it's pulled off without creative editing.  It is what it is, with a film crew making a low-budget zombie flick in an abandoned warehouse that may have been the site of Japanese army experiments during World War II.  Just the fact that something this complicated was pulled off by what was essentially a beginning film class is impressive enough.  Shin'icherĂ´ Ueda and his crew, consisting of a number of people who paid money to be in the film as part of an educational experience, pulled the whole thing off - including the remaining movie following the opening portion - for $25000.00.  It wasn't meant to be seen by anyone except friends and maybe at a few small festivals, but its reputation in Japan quickly grew and, after ar

Batman & Robin (1997)

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Many movies get a terrible reputation when, in retrospect, it was less the quality of the movie and more the circumstances under which it was made or the box office reception giving the impression that it was worse than it was.  Heaven's Gate is a perfect example of this.  The movie itself is a well-made film when seen in proper ratio and with the full run-time, and it is as entertaining and thrilling as any epic of the time.  However, westerns were not popular when it was made, and no one was clamoring for a three-plus hour film about a 19th century range war in Wyoming.  There are also a lot of other things that proved the movie's undoing, not the least being director Michael Cimino's arrogance, but when it comes down to it he delivered a quality film. Even Howard the Duck isn't anywhere near as bad as it is said to be.  It's annoying at times, rarely funny and saddled with a mediocre story clothed in ILM effects, but it is still far from even being one of the wo

Don't Torture a Duckling (1972)

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For many Americans Lucio Fulci's career begins with Zombie and ends sometime in the late 1980s.  It is his horror films, with their lurid box art screaming from video store shelves, their intense gore and often incomprehensible plots, that most fans outside of Italy know him for.  The horror films, however, came late in his career, and largely because Zombie was such a major hit.  He did heist films, comedies, early '60s rock and roll cash-in movies and westerns, to name a few of the genres he had worked in since the 1950s.  By the 1970s he had also began working in the giallo field.  Don't Torture a Duckling isn't the typical film with a black-gloved killer going after scantily clad women, with a plot that curves back and forth and takes several meandering paths.  Rather, it is a straight mystery film set in a small Italian town where superstition and suspicion of outsiders, and even their own neighbors, is rife.  For a man known for horror films that tend to just tur