June 27, 2017

Eating Raoul.


Review #955: Eating Raoul.

Cast:
Paul Bartel (Paul Bland), Mary Woronov (Mary Bland), Robert Beltran (Raoul Mendoza), Susan Saiger (Doris the Dominatrix/Nurse Sally Cummings), Lynn Hobart (Lady Customer), Richard Paul (Mr. Cray - Liquor Store Owner), Mark Woods (Hold-up Man), and John Shearin (Mr. Baker) Directed by Paul Bartel.

Review:
I admit that there is something undeniably appealing about black comedies, where if the material is handled and executed with the right kind of care or style, it can make for a good time. With a film as offbeat and as clever as this, this is a fairly satisfactory movie because of how it is with its tone and pace. Its manner of fact manner (with regards to the subject matter) and the chemistry of Bartel and Woronov stands out the most; they just have an easy connection with each other that doesn't come off as mismatched or out of place. Beltran is a welcome contrast between these two, being a good wedge, even if he probably should have had more screen-time. The supporting cast is fairly decent in being decadent for when the movie requires it, such as Saiger. The nonchalance about the dark things that are shown through the movie does not overstay its welcome nor become too grotesque. I wish the film was a bit longer, though, as it only lasts 83 minutes; if the film had spent more time with the mayhem, I think it would've probably been just a bit better. It at least has some decent satirical moments. The film is at the very least enjoyably wild enough to deserve a viewing or two, owing to how it shines as an independent film, being subtle and broad in the places that matter most, with a title that certainly lives up exactly to what it sounds like.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

June 26, 2017

Harold and Maude.


Review #954: Harold and Maude.

Cast:
Ruth Gordon (Dame Marjorie "Maude" Chardin), Bud Cort (Harold Chasen), Vivian Pickles (Mrs. Chasen), Cyril Cusack (Glaucus), Charles Tyner (General Victor Ball), Eric Christmas (Priest), George Wood (Harold's Psychiatrist), and Ellen Geer (Sunshine Doré) Directed by Hal Ashby (#636 - Being There)

Review:
It's not every day I encounter a movie that has a cult following, especially one that is as interesting as this one. How does this movie manage to be have an irresistible edge and connection? How can something with subject matter that qualify quite well for a dark comedy have a sort of charm to it? The answer is because of how it executes itself, from a wonderful cast to how it does not skip any beats. Its chase for happiness in a world that seems to repress (represented by Pickles and Tyner) still seems relevant today; sure the movie has scenes where Cort's character stages his death and attends funerals, but there is a spirited heart at its core, where you feel for this odd but ultimately competent kind of main character. The music by Cat Stevens is quite effective, being quite nice for the mood of the film ("If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" is undeniably memorable). Gordon and Cort have a certain zest to their scenes together, being quite entertaining in their scenes; one of my favorites is when they play-fight each other when the latter is being recruited to the Army, and they have an clever "exchange" of words with each other. Pickles does a fine job as well, reacting to her on-screen son's actions with a type of un-affectionate "sensible" manner that works as a good contrast for the movie; the other actors are fine as well, with Tyner being a good standout. This isn't a cynical kind of movie, nor is it a movie struck by being overly sentimental; it's a movie that is warming in its own way beyond a warped sense of reality - whether it be Harold's reality or not.

The way that the movie came to fruition is interesting. The film was sprung from a thesis that Colin Higgins (a UCLA film student and pool cleaner) developed, and he showed the script to his landlady, who happened to be the wife of a producer in Hollywood. After forming a production company and shopping it around at studios, it eventually landed at Paramount Studios. The movie was not a success when first released but overtime the movie developed a cult following due to its offbeat appeal, with one theater (Westgate Theater) showing the movie for over two years - 1,957 showings in total. Is this a movie for everyone? No, but it certainly has a undeniable sense of humor that manages to hit more than it misses while deserving its label of being a cult classic.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

June 23, 2017

The Lavender Hill Mob.


Review #953: The Lavender Hill Mob.

Cast:
Alec Guinness (Henry "Dutch" Holland), Stanley Holloway (Alfred "Al" Pendlebury), Sid James (Lackery Wood), Alfie Bass (Shorty Fisher), Marjorie Fielding (Mrs. Chalk), Edie Martin (Miss Evesham), John Salew (Parkin), Ronald Adam (Turner), and Arthur Hambling (Wallis) Directed by Charles Crichton.

Review:
At 81 minutes, this is a capable heist comedy that manages to be clever along with amusing. This movie (made in the United Kingdom) won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (now known as Best Original Screenplay), and it's not hard to see why; the heist elements are crafted at a good pace, with the scheme to do the heist (converting the bullion into paperweights) is handy, with the idea having been thought up by the filmmakers when conversing with the Bank of London. Guinness and Holloway make for a good capable duo, particularly when they are just forming their plan, with credit to their expressions and the way they handle their lines. James and Bass and fairly capable contributors, being pretty crafty and amusing as well. The rest of the cast is pretty decent, but the real fun is seeing the movie execute itself with its situations. This is a light fun film that moves at a ready pace and works magic out of being engaging and not having a dull moment at any time. The film uses its locations well, with the Eiffel Tower sequence being pretty clever and entertaining, especially with Guinness and Holloway laughing down the tower steps. The climax is handled quite well, having its share of thrills but also moments of hilarious moments; the framing device the film uses in the beginning to tell the story does not hinder the suspense too much of wondering if Guinness will get away with the loot because of how engaging the movie is. This is a film that is easy to recommend watching due to its cleverness and charm.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 22, 2017

Chungking Express.


Review #952: Chungking Express.

Cast:
Brigitte Lin (Woman in blonde wig), Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (Cop 663), Faye Wong (Faye), Takeshi Kaneshiro (He Qiwu, nicknamed Ah Wu, Cop 223), Valerie Chow (Air Hostess), Chan Kam-Chuen (Manager of 'Midnight Express'), Kwan Lee-na (Richard), and Wong Chi-Ming (Man) Directed by Wong Kar-wai.

Review:
This is the 26th world cinema movie on Movie Night, but it happens to be the first from Hong Kong (Enter the Dragon (#587) was a Hong Kong-American production), with five languages being spoken during the film: Cantonese, Mandarin, English, Japanese, and Hindi. The original title is Chung hing sam lam (Chungking Jungle), which refers to the "concrete jungle" of a city, with one of the locations of filming being at Chungking Mansions. In any case, this isn't a movie meant for casual watching that challenges a viewer, but it does not bore them to death with puzzlement (or pretentiousness), with this being aided by the performances. There are two stories told in the film (with their similarities and differences), and they are both quite entertaining in how they operate on their own currents, save for one brief interconnecting moment.

The movie has a commendable style of filming and editing (with cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Andrew Lau) that is strikingly captivating to watch - the chase scenes in particular sand out for how they contrast with the other parts of the film. The first part (with Lin and Kaneshiro) is entertaining and interesting (especially with the scenes involving trying to find a specific pineapple can) as a quirky thriller, with Lin and Kaneshiro's scenes being lightly tender but neat nonetheless; I found the second part (with Chiu-Wai and Wong) pretty captivating, utilizing the chemistry of the two actors and music quite handily as a type of screwball comedy. Kam-Chuen has an amusing but useful presence through both parts (such as when opening a letter meant for someone else). I found the second part had a bit more weight and meat to it, while the conclusion is ambiguously interesting, just like you'd expect. It's not a perfect movie, but it is definitely an intriguing and entertaining kind of movie that shows flair along with elements of a story for the audience to watch play out, succeeding handily. It may last just 98 minutes, but it definitely feels like it earns each minute it lasts on screen.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 21, 2017

The Big Sleep (1946).


Review #951: The Big Sleep.

Cast:
Humphrey Bogart (Philip Marlowe), Lauren Bacall (Vivian Sternwood Rutledge), John Ridgely (Eddie Mars), Martha Vickers (Carmen Sternwood), Dorothy Malone (Acme Bookstore proprietress), Peggy Knudsen (Mona Mars), Regis Toomey (Chief Inspector Bernie Ohls), Charles Waldron (General Sternwood), Charles D. Brown (Norris), Bob Steele (Lash Canino), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Harry Jones), Louis Jean Heydt (Joe Brody), and Sonia Darrin (Agnes Lowzier) Directed by Howard Hawks.

Review:
This is the first film I've watched that was directed by Howard Hawks (he had done uncredited rewrites to The Thing from Another World (#519), and it is debatable on whether he had directed the film), and he does a good job at making a classic film noir. This was based off the Raymond Chandler crime novel of the same name, with the screenplay written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett & Jules Furthman; as such, the lines are snappy and effective at making for an incredibly capable thriller. The appeal of the movie is seeing the investigation is executed and not merely just seeing it be solved (Chandler himself was asked by the filmmakers who killed the chauffeur - he responded that he didn't know), with Bogart being quite adept at being the hard-boiled wisecracking detective without any real missteps. Bacall does a fine job in this dazzling role filled with spunk and charisma, and her chemistry with Bogart is undeniably entertaining to watch, in part because of how easy they flow together while on screen together, with the racehorse dialogue being quite suggestive along with energetic. Ridgely does a fine adversarial job; Vickers manages to make her loopy character stand out quite nicely. The rest of the cast are pretty convincing in their roles (such as Malone and Steele), serving finely when compared to the dynamic of Bogart-Bacall, which stands out almost as much as the mystery itself. The movie operates at its own pace, and while it may be a bit hard to follow at times the movie has an undeniable amount of fun entertainment to it all.

This movie was filmed prior to the end of World War II, but it was not released until after Warner Bros. released their backlog of war-related films. There are two versions of the movie. One cut (released only to troops in the South Pacific) lasts 114 minutes, while the released cut lasted 116 minutes. There are differences between the two versions, with scenes added in order to play up the Bogart-Bacall dynamic and portions were re-shot (one key scene cut involves Marlowe and a D.A in conversation); a consequence of this is that Pat Clark was unavailable for the re-shots, so Peggy Knudsen replaced her in the film. In any case, the earlier version apparently is more linear in plot but has less of Bogart-Bacall, so take that for what it's worth. It isn't a perfect movie, but it is at the very least a classic that should watched at least once for anyone who likes film noir, like I do.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 20, 2017

Master of the House.

Review #950: Master of the House.

Cast:
Johannes Meyer (Viktor Frandsen), Astrid Holm (Ida Frandsen), Karin Nellemose (Karen Frandsen), Mathilde Nielsen ("Mads"), Clara Schønfeld (Alvilda Kryger), Johannes Nielsen (Doctor), and Petrine Sonne (Laundress) Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer.

Review:
This is the 25th film under the world cinema label (excluding Canada and the UK), with this being the second film from Denmark (the first being #740 - Himmelskibet), released as Du skal ære din hustru during original release, with the title translating to Thou Shalt Honour Thy Wife. Among all the silent films (roughly over 50), this one sticks out as a fine family drama that has a share of wit to it. The movie shines best when showing these characters and their emotions through their expressions and through subtlety. Dreyer uses his household environment to make an enclosing but fitting atmosphere. Despite not having many scenes outside the house, it never feels like a stage production, due to the actors. The movie take its time to show the life of the family and their daily ritual; it gets interesting after the film shifts its focus to the nanny. Meyer does a fine job as this rough patriarch lead while never becoming two dimensional in his manner of tone. Holm also shines in her matriarch lead role due to being easily relatable and fairly likable. Nellemose is pretty decent. Nielsen and Schønfeld are entertaining in their scenes of trying to confront Meyer. For me, when the core concept of a film that was released before my time (pretty much most films of the 20th century) can still apply and work in the current day, it acts a benefit to the movie's advantage. The movie manages to work as a commentary on the family household most of the time, never becoming too heavy handed while having a few times of levity. It's easy to recommend this one, whether for its worldly flavor or its wonderful execution - take your pick.

Well, if you didn't already know, Movie Night has now reached 950 reviews. I didn't want to make a big deal about it (besides the sticker), but in any case it is important because there are now only 50 reviews to go to the big number, 1,000. Hopefully the next batch of 50 will be as good as the other 19 batches of 50 have been.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 19, 2017

The First Auto.


Review #949: The First Auto.

Cast:
Charles Emmett Mack (Bob Armstrong), Patsy Ruth Miller (Rose Robbins), Russell Simpson (Hank Armstrong), Frank Campeau (Mayor Jim Robbins), William Demarest (Dave Doolittle), Paul Kruger (Steve Bentley), Gibson Gowland (The Blacksmith), E. H. Calvert (Elmer Hays, the inventor), and Barney Oldfield (Himself - The Master Driver) Directed by Roy Del Ruth (#395 - The Maltese Falcon (1931)#432 - The Babe Ruth Story, and #807 - The Alligator People)

Review:
The transition of technologies is always a strange one for certain types of generations to handle, whether from transitioning from landline phones to cellphones, or horse carriages to automobiles; the latter is featured here, and while the movie isn't anything too great it is at least acceptable entertainment. Contrary to the promoted billing, Barney Oldfield (pioneer automobile racer who also served as the technical coordinator for the movie) is neither the main star nor does he have too much on screen, aside from a scene where he drives an automobile at one mile a minute, which is quite fast for the time depicted in the film (1904); in real life he was the first to reach a speed of 60 mph (97 km/h). The film mostly revolves around Mack and Simpson and their conflict over the transition from horses to "horseless carriages", which works alright for the 75 minute run-time. Miller is fairly alright, though nothing too special. The rest of the cast is fairly decent in their roles. Mack was killed in a car accident while driving to work, which occurred near the end of filming, with the movie premiering three months later.

What is interesting about this silent film is that it has a Vitaphone sound-on-disc soundtrack, complete with a musical score and sound effects (synchronized to the movie) that also contains spoken words (three) and laughter at some points. This is a fairly adequate comedy-drama, having a few tidy gags while also being relatively serious enough without going too overboard; the climax has a few thrills, even if it sounds a bit odd: Simpson and Miller are attempting to get to the automobile race before Mack's car (filled with sulfur) explodes, while they are on horse carriage. The automobile action (such as the race against a horse and the races at the end) is neatly executed, and I imagine this will appeal to fans of old automobiles (one particular photo of Oldfield and Henry Ford is shown near the end, featuring the Ford 999). The whole transitioning technologies aspect of the plot is still fairly applicable now, albeit with a few changes (such as the climax). On the whole, this is a mildly entertaining movie that works best alongside other silent movies of the time while not requiring too much to invest in. It's not hard to recommend, if you're looking for a movie with some old-fashioned automobiles.

My condolences go out to the families of the seven members of the USS Fitzgerald who were killed in a collision this weekend. This especially hurts to write considering that Noe Hernandez, one of the men that died, came from my home city of Weslaco. No one should have to go through a saddening tragedy like this. They will be missed and they will never be forgotten; may they rest in peace.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

June 16, 2017

Mara of the Wilderness.


Review #948: Mara of the Wilderness.

Cast:
Adam West (Ken Williams), Lori Saunders (Mara Wade), Lelia Walsh (Mara Wade - Age Seven), Denver Pyle (Kelly), Theo Marcuse (Jarnagan), Roberto Contreras (Friday), Eve Brent (Mrs. Wade), Ed Kemmer (First Pilot), and Stuart Walsh (Second Pilot) Directed by Frank McDonald (#835 - Scared Stiff).

Review:
The wilderness leaves itself open to a variety of possibilities to set movies around, and this one certainly tries to use its location to make some fair quality entertainment. With this film (also known under the title Valley of the White Wolves), I can say that this is a decent movie that isn't really too special, but the main cast do pretty alright. West does a capable job, handling himself pretty well with the others; it's interesting to note that this was released just one year before he starred as Batman in the 1966 film and television series of the same name, which arguably stood out in people's minds more than his film roles. Saunders doesn't say too much, with her movements and facial expressions being feral-like that somewhat work, though at its heart the movie is more focused on adventure than the title character. Marcuse is the villain for the movie, and he certainly shows a brute nature of greed that is pretty effective. Contreras doesn't really have much to do, aside from reading lines one by one. For a film that lasts 91 minutes, it doesn't really seem to feel too long/short, though there isn't much in terms of chemistry between West and Saunders. The action scenes aren't too special; the scene with Saunders and Marcuse is okay, though there are quite a few cuts to Contreras' face before he turns on Marcuse (which you can guess pretty quickly); West's fights with Marcuse aren't long either, just having a quick resolution after some punches.  As stated by the end credits, this was photographed in the Deschutes National Forest, and the film does seem to work best when showing off the land, which looks quite beautiful, and it helps give the movie fine atmosphere.. While the movie isn't really anything too special, I can see this being acceptable family entertainment with some noteworthy talent involved; it may be a bit hard to find on DVD, but one can likely find it if one looks hard for it on the Internet. The level of enjoyment one finds in this can vary from either average to just a bit above average, depending on what you are looking for.

In any case, I wanted to do my own little tribute to Adam West, who had died one week ago. His work in the Batman series (and film - #177) is one that many people grew up with or heard about from their parents, and I can say that his portrayal stood out quite significantly. Rest in peace, Mr. West.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

June 14, 2017

He Walked by Night.


Review #947: He Walked by Night.

Cast:
Richard Basehart (Roy Martin/Roy Morgan), Scott Brady (Sgt. Marty Brennan), Roy Roberts (Captain Breen), Whit Bissell (Paul Reeves), James Cardwell (Sgt. Chuck Jones), and Jack Webb (Lee) Directed by Alfred L. Werker (#676 - Shock and #721 - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)

Review:
This is an interesting type of film noir in the fact that it is shot in a semidocumentary tone that is also loosely based off the crime spree of Erwin "Machine Gun" Walker, who like the character in the film was a former police employee and World War II veteran that committed thefts and burglaries with police in Los Angeles roughly three years before the film was made. In any case, this is a police procedural that does not waste much time in establishing its story along with its choices in how to film it, from the narration that occurs throughout the movie to the cinematography by John Alton (who I previously mentioned in The Big Combo - #934) to the group of police characters (and small supporting cast) that are given focus. Werker (along with an uncredited Anthony Mann) gives fine direction to the movie, delivering tension and violence without overshadowing the story.

Basehart gives the gritty kind of performance for a movie bounding itself in reality and having no sort of frills, and it works quite well in serving its purpose. Brady and Roberts are fairly decent police leads, working the movie in a serviceable way. Bissell does a fine job in making this character feel gullible but not outright annoyingly weaselly. One thing to note is that Jack Webb was inspired by a conversation with Detective Sergeant Mary Wynn (who served as police technical advisor for the movie) to create Dragnet, which is the most notable and most influential police procedural drama that had separate runs on radio and television.  Reed Hadley provides the narration in an uncredited role, and he does a capable job, doing a fair job in making the movie seem accessible. There is a consistent type of pace in this 79 minute movie, where nothing seems over-extended past a logical conclusion nor too short; one highlight is the scene where they attempt to identify the suspect via building a composite, with numerous changes before it is finally finished. The ending scene in the sewers is a riveting finale that has the right balance of sounds, shadows and lights, with Basehart's expressions and movements being quite helpful in seeing the climax to its bitter end (which is not exactly like the events in real life, but no matter). This is a fine little gem that does it by the book and succeeds.

To any readers, I am experimenting with using hyperlinks for anytime a previous review is mentioned. With any luck, this will work out without any problems. Hope you enjoy it.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

June 12, 2017

Ivanhoe (1952).


Review #946: Ivanhoe.

Cast:
Robert Taylor (Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe), Elizabeth Taylor (Rebecca), Joan Fontaine (Rowena), George Sanders (Sir Brian De Bois-Guilbert), Emlyn Williams (Wamba), Robert Douglas (Sir Hugh De Bracy), Finlay Currie (Sir Cedric of Ivanhoe), Felix Aylmer (Isaac of York), Francis de Wolff (Front De Boeuf), Norman Wooland (King Richard), and Basil Sydney (Waldemar Fitzurse) Directed by Richard Thorpe (#327 - Jailhouse Rock)

Review:
Based off the historical novel of the same name by Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe manages to shine as a fine piece of entertainment, filled with Technicolor spectacle and costumes to go with it. I can't say it's as good as The Adventures of Robin Hood (#505), for example, but it is at least a pretty interesting piece of work. Robert Taylor is a capable lead, managing to give off a commanding presence pretty quickly. An interesting fact is that Taylor, along with Thorpe and producer Pandro S. Berman, would later make two more films together in the next few years (Knights of the Round Table and The Adventures of Quentin Durward), forming an unofficial trilogy. Elizabeth Taylor does a fine job in this sweet but also capable character. Fontaine doesn't have as much to do, but she gives off a competent feel. The three form an interesting love triangle that does prove somewhat compelling, alongside the main plot, anyway. Sanders is the main adversary, and he does an alright job in making him somewhat three dimensional, particularly around the end of the film. The Norman-Saxon plot is decent, though nothing too special. Miklós Rózsa does a fine job with the music score, being quite heroic and quite fitting for the movie. The jousting sequence is well executed, and the battles are also pretty well done in capturing excitement and pacing.  Within its 106 minute run-time is a movie that balances a fine line between action and structure that does not drag itself too often, and while it may succeed more in the former than the latter, it definitely is worth consideration, with its spirit of thrills outweighing the risks.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

June 9, 2017

Smokey and the Bandit II.



Review #945: Smokey and the Bandit II.

Cast:
Burt Reynolds (Bo "Bandit" Darville), Jackie Gleason (Sheriff Buford T. Justice / Gaylord Justice / Reginald Van Justice), Jerry Reed (Cledus "Snowman" Snow), Dom DeLuise (Dr. Frederico "Doc" Carlucci), Sally Field (Carrie/"Frog"), Paul Williams (Little Enos Burdette), Pat McCormick (Big Enos Burdette), David Huddleston (John Coen), Mike Henry (Junior Justice), John Anderson (Governor), and Brenda Lee (Nice Lady) Directed by Hal Needham (#033  - Smokey and the Bandit and #034 - The Cannonball Run)

Review:
It's hard to believe it has been over 900 reviews (and six years) since I watched and reviewed Smokey and the Bandit. It is only fitting that I return to do the sequel, after all these days.

When I reviewed the first film in April of 2011, I called it a "load of fun", in part because it really was an enjoyable piece of entertainment. When it comes to the sequel, it is evident quite immediately that it is inferior in pretty much every way to the original. From the comedy to the stunts to the entertainment value to the heart, it is not only a disappointment but it is also a lazy kind of movie. Not only does this feel like a rehash of the first film, it is a bad imitation that only serves producers who wanted to make a profit of the Bandit name. Reynolds himself has admitted his displeasure with the film in interviews, stating how it was an unnecessary sequel, and I can't help but agree.

It's not so much that the actors are terrible, it's the writing that sinks the movie to a level that it never recovers from. Reynolds and Field have decent chemistry when they are simply allowed to interact and not have lines about why their characters broke up in the first place. It would've been better to just have them just be a couple then having this whole thing where they just argue (of course the parts before Field show up where the Bandit is a sad drunk aren't any better). The parts where Bandit has become a sort of folk hero don't really help the film as it does just be a lazy way of invoking the first film over and over again. Reed does a fine job as expected, with "Texas Bound and Flyin" being an adequate title song for the film (though obviously nothing tops "Eastbound and Down"). It's interesting to see Gleason back again, especially when he plays three characters in one scene (through trick photography), and his parts with Henry are useful enough. DeLuise is charming as always, but he doesn't really bring anything to the movie more than just a few Italian phrases; this happened to be filmed around the same time as The Cannonball Run, which while not exactly a great piece of work is easily better than this film, while also having better scenes of Reynolds and DeLuise. The fact that Williams and McCormick don't show up in the movie again after they recruit the main characters also doesn't help, considering they drive the plot (wanting an elephant delivered to a political convention). The fact that everything feels like a caricature doesn't help either.

The only trick that the film seems to have up its sleeve is a big sequence involving 50 cars and semi-trucks piling on each other in the desert, with destruction after destruction. However it only manages to come off as just going through the motions, feeling like a cartoon. The whole movie feels like a dumb cartoon, and it really seems to drag after the first hour or so. It's amusing (in a mocking kind of way) how they don't even end up delivering the elephant to Dallas on time, because of course not. It ends with Justice trying to chase them down on a bus, perfectly encapsulating the lazy nature of a film that comes and goes without a payoff. There are no real stakes, nor are there any moments where I felt like I needed to care about anything that happens. On the whole, the best thing I can say about the movie is that it makes the viewer want to see the original film again. I hope I didn't go too long with my critique, folks.

Overall, I give it 3 out of 10 stars.

June 8, 2017

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.


Review #944: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

Cast:
James Coburn (Sheriff Pat Garrett), Kris Kristofferson (Billy the Kid), Bob Dylan (Alias), Richard Jaeckel (Sheriff Kip McKinney), Katy Jurado (Mrs. Baker), Chill Wills (Lemuel), Barry Sullivan (Chisum), Jason Robards (Governor Lew Wallace), R.G. Armstrong (Deputy Sheriff Bob Ollinger), Luke Askew (Eno), John Beck (John W. Poe), Richard Bright (Holly), Matt Clark (Deputy Sheriff J. W. Bell), Rita Coolidge (Maria), Jack Dodson (Lewellen Howland), Jack Elam (Alamosa Bill Kermit), Emilio Fernández (Paco), Aurora Clavel (Ida Garrett), Paul Fix (Pete Maxwell), L.Q. Jones (Black Harris), and Slim Pickens (Sheriff Colin Baker) Directed by Sam Peckinpah (#590 - Ride the High Country and #591 - The Wild Bunch)

Review:
It is easy to say that this is a movie that does not skew for morality within its main characters, who seem to have interesting chemistry with each other. Not only is it a Western, it also serves as a sort of tragedy, where former friends are now pitted against each other. This is a bittersweet movie, filled with grit and action that make for a movie that can be rewarding if one has the patience for it. Everywhere you look in this film has a raw connection in someway to violence, where even lawmen are not so different from the outlaw that they hunt down; this is a bitter film, but it is also a film that accomplishes in expressing the nature of what the Old West looked and felt. Watching this movie feels like a eulogy for the times and myths that have gone by, and while the movie may drag itself under its own weight at points, it definitely hits more than it misses.

Coburn and Kristofferson are a fine tandem when on screen together, with the former having a reliable cool nature and the latter having a good amount of charm to him; right from the first scene they just seem to have an easy connection, where it doesn't look like we need a dump of exposition in order to set the stage. Dylan (who also contributed to the music) plays a strange cipher of a character (being more of an observer than a participant in the bloodshed going on), but he definitely is noteworthy to watch, even when he is reading food cans on the shelf. The music in the movie is pretty effective with the tone of the movie, with "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" being a key highlight. The rest of the cast (some who make only brief appearances) are pretty effective, managing to serve the film well when needed. The opening of the film (in the special edition and Peckinpah's cut, but more on this later) where Garrett's death and the shooting of chickens by Billy and his gang intersplice with each other is quite interesting, having a strange violent beauty to it. This was filmed in the Mexican state of Durango (in part due to conflicts with MGM), and the sets contribute into making this a visual achievement; it's not so much that the Old West is glorified, but it definitely becomes a character in a movie that isn't above myths and showing the clash of the times, where freedom and safety (within profit) interact violently. There is a spirit to this movie that is unyielding in its passion, and it definitely works even after over forty years.

This was a movie that went through production turmoil, which resulted in Peckinpah's version not being seen for years due to conflicts with MGM (and more importantly James Aubrey, President of the company at the time) over budgeting and scheduling. After the film finished 21 days behind schedule and more than a million dollars over budget, Aubrey had the film cut from a preview version of 124 minutes to 106 minutes with numerous scenes cut (including the beginning scene) and six editors being credited (this edition was disowned by cast and crew). In 1988 (four years after Peckinpah's death), a preview version of the film was released by Turner Home Entertainment, which lasts 122 minutes. In 2005, Warner Bros released a special edition version, which incorporates elements of the two movies along with additional scenes, which lasts 115 minutes. In any case, the movie has gained a new status among respective audiences, in large part due to the versions that have come out in the past few years.

On the whole, what more is there to say? Watch the film in the right state of mind, and you may very well have a good time with a film that has only become a mistreated classic in the years following its original release. Is it for everyone? No, but it definitely has its own kind of appeal that outweigh nearly everything else.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 7, 2017

The Man from Planet X.


Review #943: The Man from Planet X.

Cast:
Robert Clarke (John Lawrence), Margaret Field (Enid Elliot), Raymond Bond (Professor Elliot), William Schallert (Dr. Mears), Roy Engel (Tommy the Constable), Charles Davis (Georgie, man at dock), Gilbert Fallman (Dr. Robert Blane), and David Ormont (Inspector Porter) Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer (#797 - People on Sunday and #803 - Detour)

Review:
This film was made in just six days, while being shot on sets that had previously been used for the 1948 film version of Joan of Arc; fog machines were used not only for mood but also used in order to cover up parts of the set that weren't exactly there. This is the kind of movie where atmosphere and charm outweigh its cheaply thin nature to make a fairly decent movie. Clarke is a capable lead, carrying the movie with a good ounce of sincerity. Field and Bond are also pretty decent; Schallert is fine in an adversarial role; the film doesn't tell us what he did that apparently should've got him "twenty years", but he captures the ambitious but flawed type pretty well - even if he is also used in order to explain the plot later on. The movie runs pretty decently, lasting just 70 minutes and not seeming to waste any of its time either.

The alien is somewhat unique in that he communicates by modulated musical sounds; you never see his whole body throughout the film (due to the lighting), but his facial effects are pretty decent. One strange thing to note is the fact that there is no credit given to the actor who plays the titular character; it has been rumored to either have been Pat Goldin or dwarf actor Billy Curtis, though nothing can be confirmed (if one wants to go by Wikipedia, anyway). As stated before, the atmosphere of the film is quite nice, with nothing looks ridiculously out of place. The plot is a bit strange, with the main motivation not revealed until the last 10 minutes and the ending lines not exactly making sense. Field's character states that the creature was friendly and wondering what would have happened had Schaller's character had not "frightened him"...except that the creature was trying to get his people to invade the planet in order to survive, while they turned others in the island into zombies. No matter how the alien seemed, the fact remains that him and the planet mutually wanted to survive by invasion. In any case, this isn't a great flick, but it is at the very least a quick little film that manages to be fairly entertaining and overriding its limitations, with a good part of the credit going to the cast but also to Ulmer and his direction.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

June 5, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017).


Review #942: Wonder Woman.

Cast:
Gal Gadot (Diana Prince / Wonder Woman), Chris Pine (Steve Trevor), Robin Wright (General Antiope), Danny Huston (Erich Ludendorff), David Thewlis (Sir Patrick Morgan), Connie Nielsen (Queen Hippolyta), Elena Anaya (Isabel Maru / Doctor Poison), Lucy Davis (Etta Candy), Saïd Taghmaoui (Sameer), Ewen Bremner (Charlie), and Eugene Brave Rock (Chief) Directed by Patty Jenkins.

Review:
Last year, Wonder Woman made her first live on-screen theatrical appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (#788), a movie that tried to set the stage for DC's own movie universe, though I would argue that it set the bar pretty low for future films to be better (as evidenced by Suicide Squad - #828). With this one, however, there is no question that this is a good film that manages to be quite consistent along with being well-crafted. The reason for this starts with Gadot and Pine, who have great chemistry and timing together; it's not so much that one doesn't do great without the other, but they certainly help the movie when they are interacting with each other (or the supporting characters). It shouldn't be understated that Gadot is wonderful as Wonder Woman, giving off an earnest performance that is easily likable and watchable; she is easily convincing in the action sequences, which helps the movie earn its wings in being good entertainment. The villains in the film aren't anything too special, but they are at leas serviceable entertainment, though the climax muddles them up a bit (no doubt due to the effects and the lighting clashing a bit). Regardless, they work for the film just fine, much like the trio that accompanies our main leads (Taghmaoui-Bremner-Brave Rock), who are easily watchable, while providing some light charm. Wright and Nielsen are also pretty good for the time they have on screen in the first half of the film.

The action scenes are pretty spectacular, with the sequences being executed well without becoming overstuffed (the climax is a bit big, but that makes sense for the end). The time period of the film (1918, near the end of World War I - called the "war to end all wars") was a neat choice in part because it gives the film different ground to tread (instead of being based off WWII like Captain America: The First Avenger (#060) did) while leaving shades of gray ambiguity. At 141 minutes, the movie runs at a useful pace, balancing its characters and scenes fairly well. The climax of the movie isn't particularly great (owing to a bit of muddy but workable tone that is somewhat cliche), though it doesn't hurt the movie too much. This is a movie that shines in sincerity, making its own mark in a world filled with comic book films. Is it a perfect movie? No, but it certainly is an fine achievement that I'm sure many were waiting for.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

June 1, 2017

Sherlock Jr.


Review #941: Sherlock Jr.

Cast: 
Buster Keaton (Projectionist / Sherlock Jr), Kathryn McGuire (The Girl), Joe Keaton (The Girl's Father), Erwin Connelly (The Hired Man / The Butler), Ward Crane (The Local Sheik / The Villain), and Ford West (Theatre Manager / Gillette) Directed by Buster Keaton (#757 - Seven Chances, #762 - College, #805 - The Navigator, and #877 - Three Ages, #908 - The General, and #926 - Our Hospitality)

Review:
This is the shortest feature length film that Keaton directed, lasting 45 minutes (shorter than Seven Chances by around ten minutes), but that does not mean that the film is any less developed or entertaining than his other films. In fact, this is one of his best films in the achievements that Keaton makes on a technical and comedy scale; the deadpan humor of Keaton along with the gags of slapstick are high caliber for him, but it also manages to be quite imaginative with its premise (established quickly, naturally) and execution. How many movies do you know where a character walks onto the movie screen? The part where he goes through numerous film scenes before he enters the mystery world is particularly clever. The second half of the film is more entertaining than the first half for me, perhaps because I like seeing Keaton playing a detective, albeit under certain circumstances (namely, a dream). Keaton and McGuire are fine together, but the real highlight is seeing his interactions with Connelly and Crane, particularly the billiard game sequence. It's just a nice exchange between the three, and it is a scene that proves crucial in the climax, which is neat. The stunts and effects are entertainingly executed (such as the suitcase trick, or the water basin stunt, with a mishap actually resulting in a fractured neck), with the editing being a key highlight. On the whole, this is a highly competently made film, filled with entertaining aspects and imaginative setups. This is an easy film to recommend, as this is one of Keaton's best.

Overall, I give it 10 out of 10 stars.

May 31, 2017

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.


Review #940: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Cast: 
Bill Hader (Flint Lockwood), Anna Faris (Sam Sparks), James Caan (Tim Lockwood), Neil Patrick Harris (Steve the Monkey), Bruce Campbell (Mayor Shelbourne), Andy Samberg (Brent McHale), Mr. T (Officer Earl Devereaux), Bobb'e J. Thompson (Calvin "Cal" Devereaux), Benjamin Bratt (Manny), and Al Roker (Patrick Patrickson) Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (#540 - The Lego Movie and #568 - 21 Jump Street.)

Review: 
The last time that I had reviewed an animated movie was back in December (with Beauty and the Beast - #891), so it is welcome to review a film that is from a different animation studio - Sony Pictures Animation. This is based off the children's book of the same name, which I remember reading quite fondly when I was a child; obviously the movie takes liberties with the source material (with the food falling from the sky being from a machine being one example), but can it manage to pull off delicious entertainment (pardon the pun)? To put it lightly, it works just fine. Hader and Faris shine just fine as leads, having a fair amount of chemistry while also being fairly interesting in their own ways; Hader's character treads on familiar grounds, but he manages to give the character enough likability and charm, especially when on screen with Faris' character, who is equally engaging to watch. The father-son dynamic between Hader and Caan goes around the same lines that you'd expect from these kind of movies, though at least it isn't broadly annoying. Campbell does a fine job at showing the gluttony of the de facto antagonist of the movie (unless you count an abundance of food as an adversary); the supporting cast is pretty likable, with Harris, Samberg and Mr. T being capable highlights. The highlight of the film is the animation, which is bright and colorful but it fits for the movie; seeing burgers come out of the sky while the sky becomes a shade of purple is quite nice to look at (alongside other shots of fun foods, like ice cream). It isn't a movie without much emotional punch, but there is enough entertainment and moments of charm and food (so much food) within its 90 minute run-time to make a capable movie. Is it something to the caliber up something like Up (#288, released months before this film)? Not quite, but not everything needs to be that kind of gem; sometimes the best thing to watch (or eat) is a nice tasty digestible burger (or movie). Bottom line, this is a capable little film worth at least checking out.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

May 26, 2017

Swamp Thing.


Review #939: Swamp Thing.

Cast:
Ray Wise (Alec Holland), Adrienne Barbeau (Alice Cable), Louis Jourdan (Anton Arcane), Dick Durock (Swamp Thing), David Hess (Ferret), Nicholas Worth (Bruno), Don Knight (Harry Ritter), Al Ruban (Charlie), Ben Bates (Arcane Monster), Nannette Brown (Dr. Linda Holland), Reggie Batts (Jude), and Mimi Craven (Arcane's Secretary) Directed by Wes Craven (#474 - A Nightmare on Elm Street, #558 - Scream, and #633 - Red Eye)

Review:
With all of the superhero/comic book movies that have come out in the past decade (and the ones that will come in the next few years), it is a bit refreshing if not interesting to see one from a different time and what better than an 80s flick? Based off the DC Comics character of the same name, Swamp Thing is a more grounded kind of hero movie, feeling like a mix of monster and horror movies that make for a serviceable kind of film. Wise does well in the time he has on screen, making his character fairly relatable prior to his transformation. Barbeau is the one we see more of throughout the film (the eponymous hero takes a while to show up, naturally), and she pulls off a fine performance; her scenes with Swamp Thing are also enjoyable (one of the best parts is him answering her question if he is hurt: "Only when I laugh", with him soon laughing). Jourdan is a fair villain, being a bit overblown in his genius without being an over-the-top foe. His henchmen aren't too noteworthy, though Worth has an amusing scene with the two main leads after they all escape. Batts (in his only film role to date) does a capable job in a comic relief role. The film does have its moments of amusement, but it never veers towards outright slapstick, managing to keep a good balance while not being overtly campy. Craven does a fine job directing, handling the horror and sci-fi pretty well. The action scenes are enjoyable, and the suit for Swamp Thing looks pretty decent. The film also has a nice look to it as well (filmed in South Carolina); the swamp is fairly good to look at, mainly because the movie doesn't have a blurred effect to it (in other words, the special effects and the sets don't blur into each other). Though the movie lasts just 91 minutes, it certainly runs at an efficient pace, keeping itself going quite well. It isn't a great superhero flick, but it is a capable kind of movie worth considering.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

May 23, 2017

Girl Shy.


Review #938: Girl Shy.

Cast: 
Harold Lloyd (Harold Meadows, The Poor Boy), Jobyna Ralston (Mary Buckingham, The Rich Girl), Richard Daniels (Jerry Meadows, The Poor Man), and Carlton Griffin (Ronald DeVore, The Rich Man) Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer (#667 - The Freshman, #674 - Grandma's Boy, #758 - Safety Last!, #864 - Hot Water, and #889 - A Sailor-Made Man, #903 - Dr. Jack, #918 - Why Worry?) and Sam Taylor (The Freshman, #727 - For Heaven's Sake, Safety Last!, Hot Water, Dr. Jack, Why Worry?)

Review: 
It is nice to come closer to being full circle with Harold Lloyd's silent feature filmography, with this being the ninth of his eleven to be reviewed (reviewed out of order, but still). This was Lloyd's sixth feature film, with this being the first not to be produced by Hal Roach (who had produced the previous five); in addition, this was a "character picture" (as described by Lloyd), where the relationship between Lloyd and Ralston's characters is given more emphasis than simply having a load of gags. However, the climax of the movie (involving numerous modes of transport, such as the trolley, horse-drawn wagon, and horseback) is a clear highlight for the movie in terms of eye catching hilarity. This time around, the main character is a stutterer around girls who writes about his "lovemaking"; two different types of women (and how to "woo" them) are shown, one being a vamp and the other being a flapper; these two scenes are pretty amusing for the time. Lloyd and Ralston do a pretty job together, balancing sentiment along with moments of amusement quite well. Daniels lends a capable hand to the film, and Griffin serves as a fair enough villain for Lloyd to take action against. Like the other Lloyd films, it runs at a good capable pace (this time around 80 minutes) while also showcasing some fun gags; one of my favorites is Lloyd being moved slowly by a turtle while trying to talk with Ralston. The stuttering (and accompanying whistle to help Lloyd out) never comes off as tedious nor too ridiculous; the parts with him trying to get his book published is quite funny as well. On the whole, this falls along the line of being another good Lloyd movie to watch and enjoy. It isn't as great as something like Safety Last!, but it definitely is something to have a good time with, stutter or not

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

May 22, 2017

Eraserhead.


Review #937: Eraserhead.

Cast:
Jack Nance (Henry Spencer), Charlotte Stewart (Mary X), Allen Joseph (Mr. X), Jeanne Bates (Mrs. X), Judith Roberts (Beautiful Girl Across the Hall), Laurel Near (Lady in the Radiator), Jack Fisk (Man in the Planet), and Jean Lange (Grandmother) Directed by David Lynch.

Review:
What can I really say about Eraserhead? Fittingly, this is the first film featured on here directed by David Lynch, who also wrote the film along with doing the music, editing, special effects and other technical aspects in a movie that served as his directorial debut. He described the film (released 40 years ago on March 19, 1977 at the Filmex film festival) as "A dream of dark and troubling things"; to try and interpret the movie would be pretty fruitless along with missing the point of these reviews: seeing if this serves as quality entertainment. For me, it is a fairly interesting movie worth looking at, though it may not be for everyone. Nance is our every-man that we follow through the movie, and it is his expressions and actions in this strange world Lynch has crafted that we get to see amidst all of the imagery and sounds. He is the only one who is given significant time to be seen throughout a movie that expresses a surreal kind of horror that preys on one watching closely. The rest of the cast isn't as prevalent in presence, but they certainly are noteworthy, such as Near and Fisk. The black-and-white look of the film is also key in how it works in capturing this strange little world, making for a unique crisp experience. The baby is easiest the most horrifying thing to look at, and the way that it sounds is especially horrifying. Any scene involving it is disturbing, but the whole movie has other moments of gore and weird elements; even something like chicken for dinner is creepy. At 89 minutes, this is a movie that runs at a fair pace in that it never seems to drag itself too much in pretentiousness because there is usually something to look at coming around the corner, with an ending that is like the film itself: flowing at its own pace and on its own terms. Is it a good movie or is a great movie? It definitely excels on establishing atmosphere (along with effects), but for me it operates as a movie that tells its story with a type of unique energy to it that clicks more often than not. When it comes to putting a label on a movie like this, "cult film" likely works best. To try and talk about this movie at a greater length would be hiding the main point: See the movie for yourself and hopefully it gives you some entertainment.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

May 20, 2017

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death.


Review #936: Sherlock Holmes Faces Death.

Cast:
Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Dr. John Watson), Dennis Hoey (Inspector Lestrade), Arthur Margetson (Dr. Bob Sexton), Hillary Brooke (Sally Musgrave), Halliwell Hobbes (Alfred Brunton), Minna Phillips (Mrs. Howells), Milburn Stone (Captain Vickary), Gavin Muir (Phillip Musgrave), and Gerald Hamer (Major Langford) Directed by Roy William Neill (#846 - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, #873 - Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, and #925 - Sherlock Holmes in Washington)

Review:
I hope that I am not boring you folks with the reviews of these certain films; I do indeed have some interest in these detective films, which clearly have some sort of appeal for me. This is the sixth of the Rathbone series (#583 - The Hound of the Baskervilles, #721 - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, #798 - Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, #873 - Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, and #925), but this one is a mystery revolving around murder in a house (instead of something involving the war, though there are military characters present). After three films of wartime infused spy plots, this certainly comes off as refreshing (honestly, the title is a bit strange - doesn't he always face people dying?). One of my favorite scenes is when Holmes realizes one of the clues in a "ritual" involves a checkerboard floor on one of the rooms, and naturally Holmes decides to use the people in the house in order to act the ritual out. The film runs smoothly enough at 68 minutes, mixing capable characters alongside Rathbone and Bruce (with his character having a bit more competence than before) as expected. One of the more quirky scenes with Rathbone is him talking to a squawking raven. It isn't the best Holmes film with Rathbone (for me, nothing tops the first film), but it certainly is an improvement over the previous three movies, in part because of the way it operates itself. The villain (Margetson), while not strong or particular clever, is somewhat satisfying in that he is not merely one dimensional. Brooke is a somewhat fair supporting actress (the most quirky scene involving her is one where she is reciting a ritual and a bolt of lightning strikes through a window and hits a suit of armor near her). It ends with a dialogue between the two main actors about a "new spirit abroad the land" that isn't about greed (inspired by an act of selflessness by Brooke's character), which is interesting if not somewhat broad. The mystery is entertaining enough, and this is a fairly good way to spend an afternoon with a serviceable type of movie like this.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

May 17, 2017

The Atomic Kid.


Review #935: The Atomic Kid.

Cast:
Mickey Rooney (Barnaby 'Blix' Waterberry), Robert Strauss (Stan Cooper), Elaine Devry (Audrey Nelson), Bill Goodwin (Dr. Rodell), Robert Emmett Keane (Mr. Reynolds), Whit Bissell (Dr. Edgar Pangborn), Joey Forman (MP in hospital), Dan Riss (Jim, FBI Chief Agent), Peter Leeds (FBI Agent Bill), and Hal March (FBI Agent Ray) Directed by Leslie H. Martinson (#177 - Batman)

Review:
I suppose the random nature of this show means that any film I happen to come across is fair game for reviewing...and this one (distributed by Republic Pictures) just popped up. I suppose summer vacation is the best time to churn out some more reviews, no matter what the result. This is the first time I'm reviewing a film with Mickey Rooney as the main star, and what better than a movie where he gets an atomic bomb dropped on him? Or one where he eats a sandwich with peanut butter sardines, and horse radish? Of particular note is that the film was written (along with Benedict Freedman and John Fenton Murray) by Blake Edwards, one year before he became a director. This is a movie that clearly aspires to be something easily digestible while being considerably thin in plot. Rooney is somewhat entertaining, managing to have some fun, and he has somewhat capable buddy chemistry with Strauss, though they don't have much screen-time in the middling middle parts of the movie until the end of the film. Devry (billed as "Ms. Mickey Rooney" in the beginning credits) and Rooney are somewhat interesting to watch, but they can't carry the movie to any real enjoyment. It really is just a movie with some mild gags, simply put. This is a movie not worth complaining too much about in part because remembering it is more of an effort than trying to actively give criticism. Is there any highlights? I guess the geiger counter watch is somewhat neat looking, though it is muddled by all the gags involving the main character's neutrons changed anytime he gets in contact with the nurse (get it?). Somehow, the plot includes a spy ring, though it doesn't really go anywhere. Simply put, it's a stale but harmless kind of movie.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

May 12, 2017

The Big Combo.


Review #934: The Big Combo.

Cast:
Cornel Wilde (Police Lt. Leonard Diamond), Richard Conte (Mr. Brown), Brian Donlevy (Joe McClure), Jean Wallace (Susan Lowell), Robert Middleton (Police Capt. Peterson), Lee Van Cleef (Fante), Earl Holliman (Mingo), Helen Walker (Alicia Brown), and Jay Adler (Sam Hill) Directed by Joseph H. Lewis.

Review:
When it comes down to film noirs, there is always something interesting about their appeal, whether it be due to the cast (or supporting cast), the way that it is shot, the way that it is structured, or even just the way that it is on an entertainment level. The Big Combo (produced by Theodora Productions and Security Pictures while distributed by Allied Artists Pictures) stands out in how nifty it operates with the cast and pacing. It isn't a great movie, but it certainly is a good enough movie that works on enough entertaining levels. It has a raw edge to it (particularly with one scene involving tonic) that underlies a fairly well-moving gangster movie. Wilde and Wallace (who were married at the time) have their fair share of moments together that work due to how they balance each other and their roles simply and coherently. Conte is a capable villain, giving this character the professional touch required for the movie. Donlevy does a fine job as the right-hand man to Conte, and they do a fine job balancing out their nefarious operation. The rest of the cast are serviceable in their supporting roles, not doing anything to ruin the balance or tone. The latter half of the movie is well executed, with Conte's fate being particularly memorable to watch; the climax in a foggy hangar is done quite well. At 87 minutes, it certainly has a good pace to it that is readily accessible. It's the final scene, with Wilde and Wallace standing in the airport with fog and shadows around them that stands out among the rest, with the credit going to John Alton and his cinematography that resulted in such a nice shot in a movie that works best as a neat little film noir gem.

On a different note, I graduate from my local college (South Texas College) today, with an Associate's Degree in Secondary Education in hand. What a ride it has been for four semesters, especially with how Movie Night has operated around it. With any luck, the reviews will keep coming, no matter what the next step is for me as long as I continue to enjoy doing them, which I still do. Thank you.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

May 10, 2017

Embryo (1976).


Review #933: Embryo.

Cast:
Rock Hudson (Dr. Paul Holliston), Barbara Carrera (Victoria Spencer), Diane Ladd (Martha Douglas), Roddy McDowall (Frank Riley), Anne Schedeen (Helen Holliston), John Elerick (Gordon Holliston), Vincent Baggetta (Collier), Jack Colvin (Dr. Jim Winston), and Joyce Brothers (Herself) Directed by Ralph Nelson.

Review:
I had wanted to do this film a while back during the fall season, but I had forgotten about the movie (which is amusing, given all the reviews that occurred anyway) until now. Strangely, the movie begins with a statement from a Dr. Charles Brinkman III, stating: "The film you are about to see is not all science fiction. It is based upon medical technology which currently exists for fetal growth outside the womb. It could be a possibility tomorrow...Or today." I guess with words like that, one could have hope for this strange film, released by Cine Artists Pictures (who went bankrupt before being able to renew the copyright on the movie). And how is it? Well, it certainly is something you wouldn't expect (nor expect to find). The movie revolves around trying to make life (or more specifically, keeping life alive). Naturally, he starts with a dog before deciding upon doing so for a fetus with some sort of experimental thing called "placental lactogen". This goes about as well you'd expect (complete with voice-over by Hudson during the latter experiment), with all of it meant to be taken seriously. Yes, even with the fact that the decision to proceed with a human is only a few days after having "success" with a doberman. When the movie turns from a half-baked Frankenstein into an equally half-baked version of My Fair Lady (or Pygmalion) is likely when the movie lends itself rope to seal its fate. It is evident that the makers of the movie wanted to do something with horror and drama (with not-science fiction, if one goes by the opening) that would have an effect of audiences, but that never seems to succeed. At least it isn't too long (104 minutes), but that can't help in making it seem somewhat dull.

McDowell makes a "cameo" as a chess player who competes against Carrera's character, complete with an outburst after the match ends, which is somewhat amusing. Hudson is the best actor in the movie by merely having a presence that comes closest to being convincing, even with somewhat dry monologues (recorded on tape) throughout the film. Carrera doesn't really spring much personality into the role; she is watchable when trying to interact with colleagues or when trying to search for a cure to her biological problem, but that doesn't excuse a somewhat listless performance. Even when she makes a villainous turn (gasp if you aren't surprised), it doesn't help in making the movie entertaining. Ladd doesn't fare too well either, nor does Schedeen, in part because they don't have any sort of screen time to make anything significantly worth investing in. When the movie gets to its climax, there is no investment in any of these characters, and when you can't care about the stakes the film tries to set, one question is posed: Who cares? Naturally, it ends with a car chase (no joke), complete with aging makeup and a reveal that would be shocking if not merely serving to end a ridiculous movie. On the whole, this is a ridiculous movie that doesn't have as much entertainment value as it should while also not having as much credibility as it wants to strive for, failing on numerous levels for everyone.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

May 8, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.


Review #932: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Cast:
Chris Pratt (Peter Quill / Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Vin Diesel (Baby Groot), Bradley Cooper (Rocket), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Elizabeth Debicki (Ayesha), Chris Sullivan (Taserface), Sean Gunn (Kraglin), Sylvester Stallone (Stakar Ogord), and Kurt Russell (Ego) Directed by James Gunn (#626 -  Guardians of the Galaxy)

Review:
With reviews like these, I generally try to avoid making it about the experience I had around watching the movie in a theater on opening week, mainly because I fear that it may come off as irritating to you fellow readers. But I do admit that the Marvel films (after nine years and 15 films) are generally entertaining along with being well crafted, whether watched alone or with others by me (with the latter applying this time around). The first Guardians of the Galaxy was a fun enjoyable time that had its shares of amusement and thrills, which definitely hit the right spot for me (I'm just surprised it was released three years ago). In any case, this is a fairly enjoyable sequel, and while it doesn't quite rise to the level of the first film, it still works just enough without just being a rehash. The story decides to split the characters up until around the climax (while thankfully not hinting at them breaking up or anything), and I think it helps in letting the film breathe a bit with the characters it tries to feature along with the action. The main group of heroes are all pretty well in their roles; Baby Groot is a neat highlight. Pratt does a fine job, having good chemistry with Saldana and Russell. Cooper and Bautista also do fine jobs. Rooker (a fairly neat standout in the first film) gets a more significant kind of role this time around, and he does a good job with that advantage, being quite fun to watch. Russell is naturally entertaining, and he does a fine job at delivering the gravitas one would expect playing a living planet as a character. Klementieff is also pretty good at playing a slightly naive but easily likable character that has some neat scenes with Bautista. The rest of the cast (such as Gillian and Gunn) are also pretty fine at the roles they play. There is certainly a degree of emotional depth this time around (reminding me of The Empire Strikes Back, at least in some part) that more often than not manages to hit the mark and not bog the movie down, especially when the movie has a great spectacle of effects and action to back itself up nicely at 136 minutes. Take it for what it is: Good ol' fun, with Gunn delivering a fun flick once again.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

May 6, 2017

Not of This Earth.


Review #931: Not of This Earth.

Cast:
Paul Birch (Paul Johnson), Beverly Garland (Nadine Storey), Morgan Jones (Harry Sherbourne), William Roerick (Dr. F.W. Rochelle), Jonathan Haze (Jeremy Perrin), Dick Miller (Joe Piper), Anna Lee Carroll (Davanna Woman), and Pat Flynn (Simmons) Directed by Roger Corman (#368 - The Little Shop of Horrors, #684 - It Conquered the World, and #852 - The Terror)

Review:
With an estimated budget of $100,000 and a run-time of 67 minutes (some prints have it as 71 due to repeating certain scenes), this is certainly a movie that fits in as a carefully crafted sci-fi flick. And who better than Roger Corman? It had been a while since I covered one of his numerous films, so this seemed to fit the bill. Birch is a neat villain, in that his insidious nature and voice go well together in making the scenes with him and Garland have their share of thrills. Garland also does a fine job, having a fair share of competence along with a fair sense of panic. I have to admit, a movie about an alien studying the effects of human blood on him and his dying race is an interesting premise, while wearing sunglasses most (but not all) of the time, even in the dark. Jones and Roerick are also pretty good in supporting roles; Haze stands out, mostly because he seems so capable at playing this assistant role with a good touch of charm. Miller is in the movie for one fun little scene as a vacuum cleaner salesman, with a little look toward the camera just before his untimely departure, which is amusing somehow. The effects on the alien (such as his eyes) is pretty good for the time, though the flying creature does remind me an umbrella or lamp (whichever seems funnier). It's not exactly a clear cut invasion movie, nor is it a movie about a sympathetic alien, but there is something about how he interacts with the humans (and vice versa) that works.This is a fairly competent kind of science fiction movie, having some quick thrills and some level of suspense that I'm sure would fit well for anyone. It's no masterpiece, but it is a fairly manageable experience and sometimes that is all one needs for a movie.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

May 4, 2017

The Humanoid.


Review #930: The Humanoid.

Cast:
Richard Kiel (Golob), Corinne Cléry (Barbara Gibson), Leonard Mann (Nick), Barbara Bach (Lady Agatha), Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Kraspin), Ivan Rassimov (Lord Graal), Marco Yeh (Tom Tom), and Massimo Serato (Great Brother) Directed by Aldo Lado.

Review:
What day is it? Why it's May 4th, otherwise known as Star Wars Day by fans due to the easy pun on the catchphrase "May the Force be with you". As such, I figured it best to honor the day with...a film that has "inspiration" taken from Star Wars, made in Italy (released there under title of L'umanoide) and released in 1979. The similarities are apparent from the opening titles, with an opening text crawl detailing events from the film (though this is set in the distant future on "Metropolis"). The villain of the movie wears a costume that looks like a low rent Darth Vader outfit (though his face is visible this time), while also commanding a spaceship in the shape of triangle. At least the plot-line is something different, involving turning people into super soldiers (called "Humanoids", naturally). There is a feasible budget this time around (reportedly around $7 million), so the sets have an admirable cheesy feel to them, doing this better than say, Starcrash (#755).

The mish-mash of ideas is quite entertaining if not strange, from the wonder kid filled with mysterious (if not random) powers (and his own mysterious protectors) to the robot dog (because of course) to the villainess who relies on youth serums (gee I wonder what her fate will be) to Kiel basically playing a mix of the Hulk and other monsters with a big heart. There's even a character called the Great Brother, with his brother being the villain (are you surprised?). The music by Ennio Morricone is weird and wonderful, with a bunch of synthesizer arrangements, disco grooves that certainly make for an interesting listening experience. Kiel is interesting in the sense that this is one time where he actually has more than a couple of lines, though after becoming the title character he doesn't speak much; he manages to a capable job nonetheless. Clery and Mann are somewhat capable. The big standout is Yeh, playing some sort of mystical kid hero who excels at playing the ridiculous nature the role carries (he rides on a ghost ship at the end). Rassimov plays the villain, though obviously he doesn't have much evil presence as Kennedy, who hams it up just a notch more along with Bach. He does get to fire laser beams though, so in a way we all win. The ending is pretty interesting, in that it ends with a ghost ship flying away to Tibet with the kid and his friends (?????), with an ending text and narration talking about it took intelligence, insight and strength to defeat a mortal enemy - because of course it ends with that. On the whole, this is an entertaining, if not exactly sane kind of movie.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

May 3, 2017

Tormented.


Review #929: Tormented.

Cast: 
Richard Carlson (Tom Stewart), Susan Gordon (Sandy Hubbard), Lugene Sanders (Meg Hubbard), Juli Reding (Vi Mason), Joe Turkel (Nick), Lillian Adams (Mrs. Ellis), and Gene Roth (Mr. Nelson) Directed by Bert I. Gordon.

Review: 
When it comes to horror films, can you think of one with a ghost tormenting her old lover and his impending marriage? Where one moment involves the main character holding up a ghost and...its head? It seems the only one that can hear and see this ghost is the main character, who sees her in a photograph along with seeing her head in a wrap, even though it is actually just flowers. This is a ludricious kind of movie, filled with pallid characters and a thin plot that still manages to veer toward the absurd, particularly with the ending. With ridiculous cliches (and accompanying spooky music), this is a movie that falls into line with other run-of-the-mill horror flicks like The Screaming Skull (#654), with both films also having been lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000. There isn't much to the actors aside from Carlson, who manages to be pretty capable (all things considered) as the lead in a movie where he shows the most energy that reaches believability. Gordon doesn't really get much to do, and Sanders isn't too much better. Reding isn't much of a villain, and her presence doesn't make the movie any more chilling. The climax of the movie is swift (this is a 75 minute film, after all), if not as somber as one would probably expect in a movie like this, though it doesn't really leave that much impact. At the end of the day, this is a movie filled with empty pacing and even emptier people.

Overall, I give it 3 out of 10 stars.

May 1, 2017

Bigger Than Life.


Review #928: Bigger Than Life.

Cast: 
James Mason (Ed Avery), Barbara Rush (Lou Avery), Walter Matthau (Wally Gibbs), Robert F. Simon (Dr. Norton), Christopher Olsen (Richie Avery), Roland Winters (Dr. Ruric), and Rusty Lane (Bob LaPorte) Directed by Nicholas Ray (#181 - Rebel Without a Cause)

Review: 
For the time this was made (in the middle of the 1950s), this certainly stood among movies that revolved around the life of a family, especially considering its subject matter (based off a 1955 story in The New Yorker named Ten Feet Tall by Berton Roueché). While it does serve as a cautionary tale about overuse of medications (with cortisone - discovered less than a decade prior to the release of this film), it also manages to weave a tale about conformity and family life. Granted, the highlight is undeniably Mason (who also produced the film), showing different kinds of emotions through the film that seems convincing; these range from being a caring family man to being in pain to being infused with megalomania, and he does it without going over the top (I do wonder if this could be cut into a horror film, especially the ending). Matthau does an understated job in a supporting role, playing the role neatly enough. Rush also does a good job in the movie as well, neither just being the other lead in a movie with a character as larger than life as Mason plays; she manages to show us her side of what she sees in the life of her household. It's strange how a scene involving a broken mirror can work so well in showing both Mason and Rush at their best, but it just helps with showing the fractured nature of the things to come. Olsen is the weak link of the three (but being a child actor, I'll cut some slack), but he does a well enough job in being as natural as one can be, and he also does a fine job in the climax. In a movie that flows well at 95 minutes, the climax is given fine buildup while also delivering in delivering drama along with suspense. This isn't a movie that relents nor allows any easy kind of cheap critiques, merely allowing this drama to play out. It has its moments of fine drama that will assuredly work for anyone looking for a film that doesn't hold judgement.

Happy May Day, folks.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 28, 2017

Krull.


Review #927: Krull.

Cast:
Ken Marshall (Colwyn), Lysette Anthony (Princess Lyssa), Freddie Jones (Ynyr, the Old One), David Battley (Ergo the Magnificent), Bernard Bresslaw (Rell the Cyclops), Alun Armstrong (Torquil), Liam Neeson (Kegan), Robbie Coltrane (Rhun), Dicken Ashworth (Bardolph), Todd Carty (Oswyn), and Bronco McLoughlin (Nennog) Directed by Peter Yates (#506 - Bullitt)

Review:
Remember Battle Beyond the Stars (#819)? That 1980 movie that tried to be Magnificent Seven in space? Or Starcrash (#755)? That movie with more absurdity than dancing on a trampoline? Or The Man Who Saved the World (#371)? (same question still applies). These movies obviously had some influence from the original Star Wars film, but they also managed to have a strange sense of fun within themselves. So naturally, I figured it was time to take on a movie that meshes science and fantasy genres while also having its inklings of Star Wars in it. I also figured that since I would be going to my first Comic Con (in my home county) on Saturday, this would serve as something to accompany all of the fun along with giving you a review to help close out the month. So how is this movie? Stranger than you think.

Marshall is the main lead, but he doesn't really have much prsence besides just being a formula kind of hero, and he isn't really too unique. Anthony (with her voice dubbed by Lindsay Crouse) doesn't really have much to do, in part due to her spending a good deal of the movie captured. It's strange how the two leads really don't have too much presence nor too much time for romance, while the supporting cast manages to quite fun. Battley (and his character) serve as comic relief, and he does have the right kind of presence to make his character enjoyable. Jones plays the "wise man" role fairly comfortably, and he shares a fine scene with "The Widow in the Web" as well. Bresslaw and Armstrong are also pretty fine as well.  The effects for his change to animals is a bit murky, but it works fine for 1983. One of my favorite parts is him turning into a puppy for the kid character to play around with (for one scene, anyway), because that's what he wished for. There is a general feel of adventure and high strung design, with lines like "power is fleeting, love is eternal" seemingly accompanying it that make for a strange watch. The set design (such as with the Black Fortress) is quite nice. I do like how the main weapon is some sort of five point throwing weapon of "magic". It's almost as amusing as the evil bad guy moving his fortress every sunrise (clearly he likes travel, though he seems to forget how to deal with humans in combat). There's even a prophecy stated in the beginning, talking about how there will be a queen who will choose their king and rule their world while their son will rule the galaxy (cosmic difference, clearly). It's not every day that a movie basically tells you that the hero and the heroine will win in the beginning, so good on you I guess. The music by James Horner is pretty good, working for the adventurous spectacle that the movie attempts to pull quite well. Is the movie corny? Sure, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. There really is something different when there's a scene involving the characters trying to ride horses (called "fire mares", who do indeed fly). It meshes its sword and sorcery along with laser guns with the mending skills of someone with a lot of imagination just sparking out. I found this to be a fairly enjoyable (if not somewhat amusing) movie that works on its own kind of level.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

April 25, 2017

Our Hospitality.


Review #926: Our Hospitality.

Cast:
Buster Keaton (Willie McKay), Joe Roberts (Joseph Canfield), Natalie Talmadge (Virginia Canfield), Ralph Bushman (Clayton Canfield), Craig Ward (Lee Canfield), Monte Collins (The Parson), Joe Keaton (The Locomotive Engineer), Jack Duffy (The Locomotive Leader), and Kitty Bradbury (Aunt Mary) Directed by Buster Keaton (#757 - Seven Chances, #762 - College, #805 - The Navigator, and #877 - Three Ages, and #908 - The General) and John G. Blystone.

Review:
This was Keaton's third starring role in a feature film (along with his second that he directed), and it was the second film of his released in 1923, the first being Three Ages, previously reviewed just last November by me. In that movie, there were good moments, but it was moderate entertinament that benefited from Keaton being himself. In this movie, the plot is much more focused, feeling well-rounded and working with the gags (instead of a movie with just gags and some sort of plot cobble) to make for a cohesive film. Inspired by (or better yet, satirizing) the Hatfield-McCoy feud (though the time period is decades prior to the feud), the film has a fine attention to set design, with some wonderful cinematography by Gordon Jennings and Elgin Lessley along with a good use of the locations (such as the Truckee River in California) and sets. The film is also pretty funny, too. The sight gags are present, but there is also a sense of adventure and madcap thrill that make the film stand out. The climax is a good sign of the fun present, with Keaton and Talmadge (her last film) having an easily charming kind of chemistry together along with a finale that allows the former to engage in rip roaring fun. The rest of the cast is also well put-together, with Roberts (who died a month prior to the release of the film) being a capable adversary for Keaton. One particularly interesting note is that there were three generations of Keatons in this film: Buster Keaton plays the starring character, while his father plays the locomotive engineer and his son plays a 1 year old version of the main character in the beginning of the film. On the whole, this is a fine piece of film that strives to entertain along with inspire some laughs, succeeding in both quite well.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 21, 2017

Sherlock Holmes in Washington.


Review #925: Sherlock Holmes in Washington.

Cast:
Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Dr. Watson), Marjorie Lord (Nancy Partridge), Henry Daniell (William Easter), George Zucco (Heinrich Hinkel), John Archer (Lt. Pete Merriam), Gavin Muir (Mr. Lang, government agent), and Edmund MacDonald (Detective Lt. Grogan) Directed by Roy William Neill (#846 - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and #873 - Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon)

Review:
This is the fifth film to star Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes (#583 - The Hound of the Baskervilles, #721: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, #798: Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, #873: Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon). This was released in April of 1943, barely a few months after the previous film was released (having gone into general release in February after premiering in December). At 71 minutes, this runs a bit longer than the previous two films, with a fine climax involving Rathbone and Zucco, who exchange a good amount of dialogue with each other that is nifty while helping the movie get some sort of momentum. Much like the last film, it goes through the motions of a spy flick made during the war with some sort of coherence and logic. The parts in the beginning (on a train) do have some cleverness to them in watching how it is executed, though the middle edges (with occasional use of stock footage) don't compare as well. Rathbone and Bruce are up to their usual level of class, with the latter having brief moments of amusement, such as drinking milkshakes (after all, they are in America). Lord is decent as the innocent, with some degree of entertaining nature. Here's a brief summary of the film: Secret info gets turned into microfilm that is hidden into a certain type of object that falls in innocent hands. Obviously this isn't something too new (nor something that wasn't done after this film), but it works in some part to see how far the thrills try to go. There is at least some sort of effort by the others to make it seem tolerable. Notably, the movie ends with the main two characters having an exchange about America and a quote by Winston Churchill about justice and peace. It's a feel good kind of movie that will work for anyone looking for some more Sherlock things. Is it good? Not particularly (for me, anyway), but I'm sure that it'll work for others looking for some form of entertainment.

Footnote: At least this film isn't The Boy Next Door.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

April 17, 2017

The Boy Next Door.


Review #924: The Boy Next Door.

Cast:
Jennifer Lopez (Claire Peterson), Ryan Guzman (Noah Sandborn), Ian Nelson (Kevin Peterson), John Corbett (Garrett Peterson), Kristin Chenoweth (Vicky Lansing), Lexi Atkins (Allie Callahan), and Hill Harper (Principal Edward Warren) Directed by Rob Cohen (#043 - The Fast and the Furious)

Review:
Simply put, this is the equivalent of a Lifetime movie, with the "saucy" details turned slightly up, with the range of cheesy acting intact. This isn't an awful movie, but it isn't a movie worth caring too much about. There are things to laugh about (Guzman, looking at least five years older than the 19 year old he is supposed to be playing), but it isn't exactly a "so bad its good" kind of film, because it is simply just a dull flick. As a thriller, it doesn't have much in terms of excitement, and it definitely doesn't have any sort of passion present in any of these characters. Lopez is probably the best  actor in the film, merely because she has the most presence (Corbett comes second, at least for me anyway), though she can't save the movie from being a dry sponge. Guzman isn't much of a villain, nor much of any kind of presence. Apparently, the original screenplay by Barbara Curry was about a neighborhood boy making conflict between a family. Naturally, this was change, where the age of the boy next door being changed along with her being separated from her husband. I do wonder if the dialogue was as bland in that screenplay as it is on screen, where atmosphere and any sense of engaging in anything that these characters say and do is completely washed out. One easy low-light is Guzman's character giving Lopez's character a first edition of The Iliad. I can't tell which part is sillier, the idea that this would seem convincing, the cleanliness of the "book", or this "bond" that they share for the book. The climax (in which it is three versus one) is just as bland, in part because there is no real sense of energy. In any case, this is clearly not a movie made for me, but it is also does not seem to be a movie for people looking for something beyond their Lifetime products. If you want to waste 90 minutes, this is probably a bit high on the list, but even schlocky sci-fi films (#755 - Starcrash, for example) work better than this.

Overall, I give it 4 out of 10 stars.

April 11, 2017

The Pilgrim (1923).


Review #923: The Pilgrim.

Cast:
Charlie Chaplin (The Pilgrim), Edna Purviance (Miss Brown), Sydney Chaplin (Eloper / Train Conductor / Little Boy's Father), Mack Swain (Deacon Jones), Loyal Underwood (Small Deacon), Dean Riesner (Little Boy), Charles Reisner (Howard Huntington), and Tom Murray (Sheriff Bryan) Directed by Charlie Chaplin (#353 - Monsieur Verdoux, #599 - The Kid, #600 - City Lights, #759 - The Gold Rush, #775 - Shoulder Arms, and #820 - Modern Times)

Review:
At just under 47 minutes, this was Chaplin's second shortest feature length film (next to Shoulder Arms, which is just a few minutes less than this film), and this was also the last film he made for First National Pictures (which he had done since 1918). It definitely isn't one of his finest pieces of works, but The Pilgrim is at least a serviceable good time. Chaplin does a fine job as usual, playing a crafty convict who impersonates a preacher. One particular highlight is when he delivers an improvised sermon revolving around "David and Goliath", which goes as well as you'd expect. Chaplin can do any sort of stranger role (whether it be a stranger in military action or as The Tramp) with an easy kind of finesse. Purviance (in her last appearance with Chaplin in a feature film) is fairly decent, and the rest of the cast (some familiar to anyone who sees enough silent film) is pretty satisfactory in the roles that they play; Murray is part of a particular good part during the end of the film, with Chaplin "escaping" near the border. The movie goes at a fine pace, owing to its short length, but it is a decent enough movie to recommend because of the serviceable amount of gags it uses, with Chaplin being the key link. In a sea of great Chaplin films, this is a little gem that is fairly useful at being entertainment and sometimes that's all that matters.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 1, 2017

Himiko.


Review #922: Himiko.

Cast:
Shima Iwashita (Himiko), Masao Kusakari (Takehiko), Rie Yokoyama (Adahime), Choichiro Kawarazaki (Mimaki), Kenzo Kawarazaki (Ikume), Yoshi Kato (Ohkimi), Jun Hamamura (Narrator), Tatsumi Hijikata (Dancer), and Rentarō Mikuni (Nashime) Directed by Masahiro Shinoda.

Review:
Ah yes, another world cinema film, this time from Japan. What is it about? Well...it's a movie about a shaman queen who falls in love with her half-brother and how this love jeopardizes her powers. When it comes to fantasy-dramas, this certainly stands out as something different. There is a good deal of surreal nature to everything, with blends of myth and passion. Obviously this is not a movie striving for too much historical accuracy (seemingly reminding me of a soap opera at times), but Shinoda seems to know what he is doing with his vision for the movie with regards to mood. It's not always easy to solve the cipher that is this movie, but it is at least somewhat compelling enough to at least see how it plays itself out. There definitely is a good deal of style with regards to how the movie looks (along with how it is shot), with numerous shots having a black background among the set pieces.The score is also pretty eerie and striking for the movie and deservingly so. Iwashita is pretty decent in the title role, expressing numerous moods and expressions usefully enough, with some strange chemistry with Kusakari. Speaking of which, Kuraskari is okay, even if he doesn't give too much expressions at points, though his passion is evident at times. Yokoyama is also pretty alright in the film. Mikuni is also fairly adequate. The movie is likely more entertaining to watch for what it shows rather than the performances, but there is enough spectacle and other-worldly nature to make for a useful watch. What other movie can have its climax include a sword fight in the middle of a mountainside after having one of its characters get tortured (along with a twist that isn't as strange as the movie is)? The experimental nature of the film may not be for everyone, but if one can find this I'm sure that you'll get something out of it.

When it came time for April Fool's Day to come about, I wanted to review something a bit on the weird side (previous April 1st reviews include #033 - Smokey and the Bandit, #115 - Return of the Jedi and its Redux Review, #362 - Mac & Me, #788 - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with the latter two ending up as jokes on myself), so I decided to do a bit of searching and this one had come up as a choice. Strange how it had been six months since the last world cinema film. In any case, I hope for a happy month of April for all of you at home.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

March 31, 2017

The Haunting (1963).


Review #921: The Haunting.

Cast:
Julie Harris (Eleanor "Nell" Lance), Claire Bloom (Theodora), Richard Johnson (Dr. John Markway), Russ Tamblyn (Luke Sanderson), Fay Compton (Mrs. Sanderson), Rosalie Crutchley (Mrs. Dudley), Lois Maxwell (Grace Markway), and Valentine Dyall (Mr. Dudley) Directed by Robert Wise (#515 - Star Trek: The Motion Picture and #725 - The Day the Earth Stood Still)

Review:
The Haunting (based of the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson) is a psychological horror film that uses its atmosphere and settings to make a a cohesively made movie with a good degree of terror over horror. Wise's direction, along with production design by Elliot Scott and cinematography by Davis Boulton, are the easiest standouts of the movie, all being good at letting the mood be chilling along with cleverly crafted. One of my favorites is the spiral staircase, which is used in numerous shots to great effect. The acting is also good, with Harris making this fragile character easy to root for along with useful to watch. There is just something about her and how she moves and how she talks to the others that really make this character readily compelling. Bloom is interesting, with a good deal of entertainment and alluring nature to her. The rest of the cast is also pretty good at their roles, whether it be scientific (Johnson) or slightly strange (Crutchley). The way that they interact with each other goes with the mood, where numerous characters talk at the same each other, with later scenes having the benefit of sound effects when it is required. The movie is as scary as one lets it be; it doesn't rely on any real horror, but it works on a psychological kind of level of terror that works for the most part. The climax is a fairly interesting one (using some of the aforementioned set pieces), though admittedly Maxwell's character almost derails it (though obviously it matters to the plot), before an ending that closes acceptably enough. It isn't a quick burn to get some chills, but it definitely has enough moments to make it all worth it.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

March 28, 2017

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).


Review #920: Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Cast:
Kevin McCarthy (Dr. Miles Bennell), Dana Wynter (Becky Driscoll), Larry Gates (Dr. Dan Kauffman), King Donovan (Jack Belicec), Carolyn Jones (Theodora "Teddy" Belicec), Jean Willes (Nurse Sally Withers), Ralph Dumke (Police Chief Nick Grivett), Virginia Christine (Wilma Lentz), and Tom Fadden (Uncle Ira Lentz) Directed by Don Siegel (#893 - Dirty Harry)

Review:
What is it about science fiction that entertains us so much? What is it about horror and and aliens that lure us so much to watch? The 1950s definitely had a great deal of entertainment with these things, but this film (based of the novel "The Body Snatcher" by Jack Finney) manages to shine on its own, becoming a film worth discussing in part because of how it constructs himself. Even if one treats it as just a horror flick (as what the director and writers have stated they were intending), It's an interesting horror film in how it invokes fear and fright from how little you really see of the terror. The film also has decent cinematography by Ellsworth Fredericks, with the shadows and lighting working nicely with the sets. McCarthy is a good lead, fitting as a storyteller and hero like a glove. Wynter is also pretty decent, having some chemistry with McCarthy while also proving to be capable for some scenes. Donovan and Jones do a pretty fine job as well in accompanying the others in a movie that always seems doing something beneath the surface. Nobody is killed on screen, nor is there much in terms of what the pod people are (aside from a part near the climax), but it has a great degree of layers within this thriller. Numerous things have been written about it being an allegory for things in the 1950s (this was the Cold War era after all), but the easiest one can be the way that people can act towards cultural things with a sense of unfeeling. While the nature of how the narrative is set up may be a bit clunky (in short, it's a flashback narrative), the movie is at least swift enough to never cop itself out too much. There is something really interesting about the way it speaks about conformity and autonomy in this film, and it doesn't bash you over the head with any sort of overwrought kind of nature. On the whole, this is an entertaining film that inspires fear along with thought in part due to a fine cast and fine direction that work together to make a critical film from the 1950s.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.