April 19, 2018

The Whole Nine Yards.


Review #1074: The Whole Nine Yards.

Cast: 
Bruce Willis (James "Jimmy The Tulip" Tudeski), Matthew Perry (Dr. Nicholas "Oz" Oseransky), Rosanna Arquette (Sophie Oseransky), Michael Clarke Duncan (Franklin "Frankie Figs" Figueroa), Natasha Henstridge (Cynthia Tudeski), Amanda Peet (Jill St. Claire), Kevin Pollak (Janni Gogolak), and Harland Williams (Special Agent Steve Hanson) Directed by Jonathan Lynn

Review: 
This is the kind of film that will linger on a movie shelf for years that you notice one day, and it inspires you to ponder on how it sat there - and the question pretty much remains prevalent even if you watch it. This is an easygoing kind of film, not having anything too particularly funny, but also nothing too particularly awful to it either, having a fine cast for a black comedy that will elicit some laughs.  At 98 minutes, it doesn't come off as a tiresome dredge, so there's that going for it. The story has its bits of turns, blurring the lines of cliche and clever at times in its execution. I did find it amusing that it's set in Montréal, though. Willis does a fine charming job with the slick role he is given, exuding a manner that is fairly amusing. Perry does a decent job, garnering a few laughs and making for a fairly watchable one to pair off Willis at times that doesn't get too grating. Arquette is fairly grating, as per the script, and the French accent does tend to border a bit on Inspector Clouseau at times - but I can't say I'm too surprised at that, so annoying or not, she is an okay adversary I suppose. Duncan does his enforcer well fairly well, complete with a bit of charm. Henstridge is fairly intriguing, having slight chemistry with Perry.  Peet delivers a fairly charming performance for the time she is on screen, managing to elict some laughs with a charm and style that makes her irresistible to watch. If you find the film something that engages you with its good intentions of dark-ish humor, you will find something worth watching; on the other hand, if you find the humor to be a bit like a sitcom without much bite, you might see the film as an afterthought. I didn't feel bored all too often, and I felt it was at least an okay crime comedy, so take that for what it's worth. It isn't a classic in any sense, but it will probably satisfy the curious tastes of most of the people picking it out. For me, it's just okay. It isn't a classic in any sense, but it is at least entertainment that succeeds - for the most part.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

April 18, 2018

A Quiet Place.


Review #1073: A Quiet Place.

Cast: 
Emily Blunt (Evelyn Abbott), John Krasinski (Lee Abbott), Millicent Simmonds (Regan Abbott), Noah Jupe (Marcus Abbott), Cade Woodward (Beau Abbott), and Leon Russom (Man in the woods) Directed by John Krasinski.

Review: 
In horror films, the best way to elicit scares is generally to use certain movements or certain imagery to get a reaction that will hopefully be effective consistently enough to deliver good entertainment. With this film, it utilizes its selective choice of sound and atmosphere to deliver a tense but successfully suspenseful horror film that I readily enjoyed. Its reliance on sound as a form of raising tension is effective, in part because the movie knows exactly what it is striving for with its sound, not making needless sound for the sake of a cheap thrill. This is the kind of movie that doesn't become just a gimmick without any sort of substance to it, having a heart to it. The film's emphasis on the family is fairly watchable, resonating well in a way that feels authentic, where you care about these characters and aren't just wanting to get a glimpse at the creature. It's interesting to watch a film that has more American Sign Language than English, where you can count the amount of scenes of dialogue between characters with their voices on probably one hand. In any case, the actors do a good job, being interesting to watch in their story and carrying their emotions on their sleeve with fair ease. The film's structure is fairly well done, and while it may have some slight distractions at times with some of the choices made, the basic outline is sound enough. Blunt, and Krasinski have fine chemistry with each other that is neatly natural, and Simmonds and Jupe do fine jobs in selling their roles without much hesitation. The film is shot well, having a clean and calculated look by Charlotte Bruus Christensen, with a fairly effective music score by Marco Beltrami and satisfactory direction from Krasinski (who helped with writing the screenplay along with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, who are credited for story). The effect for the creature are fairly decent,  The movie runs at a fairly coherent pace of 90 minutes, managing to be entertaining at the right moments along with having enough charm to power itself a winner.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 17, 2018

48 Hrs.


Review #1072: 48 Hrs.

Cast: 
Nick Nolte (Jack Cates), Eddie Murphy (Reggie Hammond), James Remar (Albert Ganz), David Patrick Kelly (Luther), Sonny Landham (Billy Bear), Brion James (Ben Kehoe), Annette O'Toole (Elaine Marshall), and Frank McRae (Captain Haden) Directed by Walter Hill.

Review: 
Admittedly, the buddy cop genre is not something that came out of thin air for entertainment. Pairing two people together with differing personalities to work together has been done numerous times over the past few decades, whether involving cops paired with each other in some sort of mismatch (such as the Lethal Weapon series or the Rush Hour trilogy), or even parodying the genre (such as in Last Action Hero - #576). In any case, 48 Hrs is considered one of the films that formed a blueprint for the genre that manages to succeed due to its chemistry between its main two leads, Nolte and Murphy. Whenever they are on-screen together, they just click together in their raw quirky nature, contentious but compelling to watch. Nolte sells his rough and cynical character well, a grouch that isn't grating as it could've been. This was the screen debut for Murphy, who had been starring on Saturday Night Live since 1980, and he manages to do a great job, selling this confident and clever role with the right sense of conviction and timing (interestingly, he was nominated for a Golden Globe for  New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture, although he lost to Ben Kingsley in Gandhi). They are a fun duo to watch mess around with each other, with my particular favorite being the scene in a bar in which Murphy intimidates the rowdy customers in order to get some useful information, mostly because of how amusing he plays his hand to the patrons. Remar is a decent villain, fairly slimy and not too much of an evil cliche, and Landham makes for an adequate second-fiddle. The other members of the cast aren't too involved with the plot much, but they are at least decent sidepieces for the film. The action sequences are neatly done, riveting in their execution and satisfactory for ones looking for excitement. The plot isn't anything revolutionary, but the film goes at an energetic pace that makes for quality entertainment that never really drags itself out at a brisk length of 96 minutes that will click at the right moments (such as with its action and main duo) to make it all worth it.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 13, 2018

13 Ghosts (1960).


Review #1071: 13 Ghosts.

Cast: 
Charles Herbert (Arthur "Buck" Zorba), Jo Morrow (Medea Zorba), Rosemary DeCamp (Hilda Zorba), Martin Milner (Benjamin Rush), Donald Woods (Cyrus Zorba), Margaret Hamilton (Elaine Zacharias), John van Dreelen (Van Allen), William Castle (Himself), David Hoffman (Messenger), and Roy Jenson (Dr. Plato Zorba's ghost) Directed by William Castle (#369 - House on Haunted Hill)

Review: 
Oh my, look what today is. So why not do a film with "13" in it? Also, I figured that it was time to do a William Castle film again, seeing how it was in April of 2013 that I last reviewed one of his films. Enjoy Friday the 13th, and if you miss out it won't be too bad since the next one is in July. 

What is there to say about a haunted house horror film? Quite a bit, actually. This is the kind of movie that tries to have fun with its premise with a few frights and a charming nature that permeates throughout its 84 minute run-time. Who can give this movie criticism for wanting to showcase a tight story and a few thrills that doesn't lie about its intent? One of my favorite lines in the film happens nearly an hour in: "I met a lion". Said line is stated by Herbert, who provides a fairly sincere performance for a twelve year old, being fairly adept in his environment that never cloys over the others. The rest of the cast prove to be fairly decent, never overplaying their hand nor going too much toward ridiculousness, with DeCamp and Woods being fairly useful parents for the film. Milner does fine, never too assuming or obvious in his role. Hamilton is also pretty fine to watch, having a strange aura around her that is watchable without being overt. On the whole, the movie is never boring, mostly because the cast plays along with the plot without being tongue-in-cheek or too serious, having a fine line of energy to it. The movie doesn't have too much of a great plot, but it manages to have a few twists and moves that actually seem riveting.

This was Castle's fourth film (with the others being Macabre (1958), House on Haunted Hill (1959), and The Tingler (1959)) to utilize a gimmick to promote the movie, with this gimmick being dubbed "Illusion-O". As stated by Castle himself in the beginning, whenever there were scenes involving ghosts, the viewer had a choice (through a cardboard square with blue and red tint celluloid) to see the ghosts, since the footage for the ghosts was shot so that the viewer would see them if they saw through the red lens, while the blue would result in not seeing the ghosts. It takes roughly a third of the film for the first ghost to appear, and it's certainly an interesting gimmick - sure you can see the ghosts even without the glasses, but it doesn't detract too much from what is an interesting idea to see play out. It may not be very scary, but it at least is somewhat interesting to watch play out. This is a movie with vast showmanship, never betraying its principles of entertainment for a cheap force-out, having a fine time with its thrills (and gimmick) that will certainly prove satisfactory for most.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

April 11, 2018

Speedy.


Review #1070: Speedy.

Cast: 
Harold Lloyd (Harold 'Speedy' Swift), Ann Christy (Jane Dillon), Bert Woodruff (Pop Dillon - Her Grand-daddy), Byron Douglas (W.S. Wilton), Brooks Benedict (Steve Carter), and Babe Ruth (Himself) Directed by Ted Wilde (#1044 - The Kid Brother)

Review: 
Speedy was the eleventh feature film starring Harold Lloyd, along with being his last silent film, released during the early transition from silent to sound features, with his next film Welcome Danger (1929) being filmed in both silent and sound but released in the latter. In any case, this is a fairly interesting film that manages to have its own share of charms. The plot involves Lloyd's character trying to save his love's grandfather from losing his business of operating a horse-drawn streetcar in New York City. Lloyd plays this carefree role convincingly enough, being quite charming and as useful as ever in his work with selling the gags. Christy and Woodruff are fairly decent, showing a bit of charm in each of their scenes with Lloyd. The other members of the cast are decent enough, although there isn't any particularly memorable adversaries or companions this time around, though the gags manage to make up for it enough.

There are numerous scenes showing the landscape of New York City, such as the scenes at Luna Park at Coney Island, or parts with Yankee Stadium, with the credit going to the filmmakers for not resorting to sets to try to simply have the film all filmed in sets, although a street of the Lower East Side was constructed on property that Lloyd owned on Westwood, California to complete the film. In any case, it's certainly interesting to look at this film as a time capsule of the city 80 years ago. The sequences on Coney Island are pretty entertaining, particularly the dollar-bill gag. Over halfway through the film, Babe Ruth (along with Lou Gehrig, appearing for a few seconds) shows up in an extended cameo role, being one of Lloyd's passengers on the taxi, which is pretty amusing. It may interest you to know that Wilde was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director of a Comedy for this film, awarded at the 1st Academy Awards, although he lost to Lewis Milestone for his work on Two Arabian Knights (1927). This was the only Oscar ceremony in which there were separate categories (in this case, "Dramatic" and "Comedy") for Best Director. Naturally, the film ends with a big spectacle chase, filled with laughs and amusement that will surely prove charming to watch. On the whole, this is a fine piece of film-work that will certainly charm fans of silent films or fans of Lloyd - with me falling into both categories. It isn't as great as something like Safety Last! (#758), but it will fall under the line of an acceptable gem to focus 86 minutes on - take it for what it's worth.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 9, 2018

Lady of the Night (1925).


Review #1069: Lady of the Night.

Cast: 
Norma Shearer (Molly Helmer / Florence Banning), Malcolm McGregor (David Page), Dale Fuller (Miss Carr), George K. Arthur ("Chunky" Dunn), Fred Esmelton (Judge Banning), Lew Harvey (Chris Helmer, Molly's father), Gwen Lee (Molly's friend), and Betty Morrissey (Gertie) Directed by Monta Bell.

Review: 
I will admit that the concept of someone playing dual roles for a movie is pretty interesting, particularly in the era before CGI such as silent films like this, and it also helps if the actor or actress playing both roles manages to make the roles distinct. The story done to set up the two is a bit sketchy in setting them up, but it isn't anything too harmfully contrived. Shearer plays her two characters with enough contrast and believability to make for a fairly interesting pair of performances. It may interest you to know that Joan Crawford made her film debut in this movie, doing so in a uncredited role, serving as the body double for Shearer for the climax of the film involving Shearer's two characters, which is handled well. Her portrayal of Molly is more interesting to watch on screen than her portrayal of Florence, but the fun is seeing her presence and her grace that seems very believable for the time. McGregor is fairly decent, showing some carefulness and ready nature. The rest of the cast is okay, with Arthur being slightly amusing. The film is a fairly pleasant one, showing its characters and a decent little romance that has the hallmarks that you would expect from a love triangle. It manages to achieve its basic goals of entertainment without resorting to anything overtly ridiculous or anything boring. I won't say that it's a hidden classic or a hallmark of romance, but it is at least a decent experience. The color hues utilized in the film (such as blue or purple) are fairly pretty to look at. With the performances by Shearer, the film doesn't manage to overstay its welcome with its 62 minute run-time. This is a movie that you might find to be a neat little gem if you're in the mood for what it offers and what it shows.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

April 4, 2018

Ready Player One.


Review #1068: Ready Player One.

Cast: 
Tye Sheridan (Wade Watts / Parzival), Olivia Cooke ( Samantha Cook / Art3mis), Ben Mendelsohn (Nolan Sorrento), Lena Waithe (Helen Harris / Aech), T.J. Miller (i-R0k), Simon Pegg (Ogden Morrow), Mark Rylance (James Halliday / Anorak), Philip Zhao (Akihide Karatsu / Sho), Win Morisaki (Toshiro Yoshiaki / Daito), and Hannah John-Kamen (F'Nale Zandor) Directed by Steven Spielberg (#126 - Close Encounters of the Third Kind, #168 - Raiders of the Lost Ark, #169 - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, #170 - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, #302 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, #351 - Schindler's List, #480 - Jaws, #563 - The Sugarland Express, #573 - E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, #642 - Jurassic Park, and #958 - Always)

Review: 
Hello fellow readers. I did not intend for this review to go a bit over 800 words, so forgive the increase in length for once. I hope you enjoy this review.

What can be said of a movie that basks itself in nostalgia and pop culture so deliberately? Can one really criticize said movie for pandering, particularly a blockbuster like this? The film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, who contributed to the screenplay for the movie alongside Zak Penn. It may serve overwhelming (or obnoxious) for some, but I can't really blame someone for getting some sort of enjoyment out of a popcorn movie, much like I can't really blame someone for liking a Transformers movie or even something terrible like The Room (#185). I will state that this is a better film than either of those examples, but being a thrill ride can't excuse the movie entirely. There is a considerable amount of thrills and action that can shine through most of its shortcomings. One particular shortcoming proves to be its narrative, a collection of cliches and contrivances that comes to the surprise of no one, whether involving its main character or even his chemistry with "Art3mis", and so on. To get angry at the movie for being exactly what it seems like seems fruitless to me.

With its approach to the OASIS, I found that there were times that felt mesmerizing, but there were also moments that felt ridiculous and nearly amusing to see, and having some of the references get explained didn't exactly help. I did find parts of the film that were pretty fun, such as the dance sequence and one particular sequence involving a homage to a certain horror film that is fairly clever, along with a few other references, such as one to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (#776). The film certainly has a fine look to it, and the CGI doesn't come off as too particularly distracting, for what it's worth. I never myself hating the film, but I also found myself laughing at parts I probably shouldn't have, such as some of the moments in the OASIS or the ending in particular. The climax isn't too bad, for an action film I suppose. If you find VR headsets cool, I'm sure you'll enjoy it in the film; if you find it to be a bit ridiculous, you might get a laugh, like I kind of did when seeing a scene in which people were using and acting out with the headsets in public. I was surprised to see that the film runs at 140 minutes long, so take your pick on if that is time worth using.

Although it can be said that the characters aren't too particularly developed, I will state that the acting is at the very least fine enough to carry the movie. I find that Sheridan does an okay job, in part because he has a role that doesn't really have much in terms of motivation besides a basic hero type (this can be signified by the speech given during the climax), but he isn't painfully annoying. Cooke does the best with what she is given for a role that also isn't too particularly developed, but she is slightly interesting to watch. I can't really say the chemistry between the two of them is particularly good, mostly going through the motions as if clicking boxes on the checklist. Mendelsohn does a fine job in making a character as generically evil as "corporate businessman" can be and turning it into something that is at the very least entertaining. There's is just something about him and the way that he interacts this environment. reminding me of Paul Gleason, particularly his role in The Breakfast Club (#046). Waike proves to be fairly endearing, providing a few laughs that help the film gain a bit of levity. Miller is also pretty amusing in his henchman role, for the most part. Pegg is fine for the time he is on screen. Rylance proves to be worthy to play this strange character that reminds me of Willy Wonka, albeit with random riddles. The other members of the cast don't have much time on screen, but they serve their parts well.

The film is never particularly moving, but it is at the very least a ride that won't make you too sick to your stomach. I can't give this movie much of an endorsement, but I also won't stand in the way of people who want to enjoy some sort of escapism. It isn't as good as some (or most) of the things that it references, but it is at the very least someone's version of a good time. Will it be some sort of cinema touchstone for pop culture or science fiction? I would say no, but I will conclude that it will just be a movie that comes and goes without leaving something obnoxious behind.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

April 3, 2018

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.


Review #1067: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

Cast: 
Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, Walter Day, Robert Mruczek, Brian Kuh, Steve Sanders, Dwayne Richard, Roy Shildt, Todd Rogers, Greg Bond, and Doris Self. Directed by Seth Gordon (#772 - Four Christmases)

Review: 
This happens to be a rare occasion for Movie Night, a documentary film. This is only the second time I've done a documentary review, with the first being Life Itself (#690). The fact that it has been over a decade since this film was released has meant that there has been a few developments in the lives of some of the people in this movie (along with some bonus footage) - but I'll try to focus on the product as it was originally done in 2007.

How does one talk about a documentary like this, where at one point one person talks about how one has to pay to price in order to etch their name to a world record, particularly one such as Donkey Kong, which is a fairly interesting game in its own right? One particular favorite moment of mine is when Wiebe's daughter comments on the Guinness World Record Book and the people in it: "Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there." Stuff like that helps define the film into more than just a blind pursuit. In a world where any type of thing can be a competition (spelling bees, bagging contests, and even sudoku), I suppose that this film can fit the bill of stories that merit a watch - with the enjoyment level depending on how invested one gets in the subject matter of Donkey Kong. I can say that I found some enjoyment from it, as it managed to present itself in an entertaining but useful manner that made itself seem necessary to exist and not something made for laughs. It presents an assortment of interesting people - whether it's a teacher and would be musician and challenger for the record (Wiebe), or a man who in his day job owns a restaurant chain and sells hot sauce while parading his fame for his Donkey Kong record, among other records (Mitchell), or even a man that (I kid you not) goes by a nickname of "Mr. Awesome" (Shildt, in a minor role). Whatever the case, the film shows the strange nature of what it really means to go for as weird as the high score on Donkey Kong. The film certainly runs well enough at 79 minutes, managing to not feel boring or stretching its material out for too long. The movie isn't one that will work for everyone (mostly because of the fact that it is about a video game record, which seem like low stakes), but it manages to have a compelling entertainment value that certainly fits the mold for watchability, because the people showcased are useful enough to want to follow their story, for the most part. Wiebe seems to a fine humble guy to follow, and Mitchell's self-serving but confident manner is also useful to watch, with Day also seeming to be interesting to listen to. The rest of the people in the movie are also useful to watch in their own ways, such as Self, who was the world's oldest video game champion, with her record high score being on Q*bert and her attempt to try and get the record back. Shildt is a strange yet memorable highlight that certainly invites questions over what it means to pursue fame. There is something to be watched in a movie that sparks emotion of anxiety, along with a touch of jealousy in something as odd yet compulsively entertaining in its obsession that certainly makes for an interesting product. Is it anything great? I wouldn't say that necessarily, but I would say that it is at least a thing worth mentioning. No matter how you watch the movie (or play the game), this is one that I can recommend.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 2, 2018

The Longest Yard (2005).


Review #1066: The Longest Yard.

Cast: 
Adam Sandler (Paul "Wrecking" Crewe), Chris Rock (James "Caretaker" Farrell), James Cromwell (Warden Rudolph Hazen), Nelly (Earl Megget), William Fichtner (Cpt. Brian Knauer), Burt Reynolds (Coach Nate Scarborough), Bob Sapp (Switowski), Michael Irvin (Deacon Moss), Terry Crews ("Cheeseburger Eddy"), Bill Goldberg (Battle), Bill Romanowski (Guard Lambert), Brian Bosworth (Guard Garner), Kevin Nash (Sgt. Engleheart), and Steve Austin (Guard Dunham) Directed by Peter Segal (#466 - Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and #826 - Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult)

Review: 
Remember the original 1974 film (#778)? The film managed to generate a good deal of laughs that is finely aware of what it wants to be, complete with a fairly entertaining and brutal game of football, with Reynolds being a key highlight due to his charisma. It may interest you to note that this is the second remake of the original film, with Mean Machine being done in 2001, revolving around soccer. In any case, this is a movie that is mediocre in its approach, not doing anything too new with its material nor being anything too terrible to sit through, but it also isn't anything too noteworthy either. Sandler can't compare to Reynolds in terms of his portrayal of Crewe, not having too much energy nor being particularly funny, but it isn't anything that becomes loathsome to watch, at least. Rock has a bit of wisecracking energy that makes for a few amusing moments. Cromwell does okay with the material he's given. The other inmates are all okay for their moments on screen (such as Nelly and Sapp), even if they are used at times for some cheap gags - for better or worse. The guards don't have much time on screen, but at least they provide themselves to be the necessary foil. There weren't many moments that I got any big laughs from, just a few mild chuckles from time to time, but I can't say that it was consistently funny. It is strange to see Reynolds in the film, who looks a bit tired while serving as a reminder of the contrast between him and the other Crewe; it's just weird to see him star in a remake of a film he did, and I can't imagine that would be the case for something like Deliverance (#975) or even The Cannonball Run (#034). I didn't really get much enjoyment from the gags, but at least the football action is fine to watch. I can't hate the movie nor really give it a ringing endorsement, because it just feels like a middle-of-the-road type of film, where the gags can hit or miss depending on the kind of mood you are in. It won't top the original in any real discernible way, but it also won't be anything offensive to someone's sensibilities. If you're up to watching it, I suppose 113 minutes isn't too much of a chore. For others, I would just suggest the 1974 film.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

March 26, 2018

Deathtrap.


Review #1065: Deathtrap.

Cast: 
Michael Caine (Sidney Bruhl), Christopher Reeve (Clifford Anderson), Dyan Cannon (Myra Bruhl), Irene Worth (Helga Ten Dorp), Henry Jones (Porter Milgrim), and Joe Silver (Seymour Starger) Directed by Sidney Lumet (#035 - 12 Angry Men, #036 - Network, and #404 - The Anderson Tapes)

Review: 
Deathtrap was adapted from the play of the same name by Ira Levin, which had run from 1978 to 1982 on Broadway, holding the record for the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway. The original play comprised of two acts with one set and five characters. and it is easy to say that the transition to film went smoothly, with the only thing added being scenes set in the theater that bookend the movie - along with a few other small changes. Quite simply, this is an effective comedy-thriller, balancing its elements handily along with having a fine pair in Caine and Reeve. The film takes its time to get interesting, but it never comes off as boring nor stale, although I find that the second half of the movie is where it really gets itself into gear. Caine excels in his role, having the right kind of frantic and resourceful nature that makes him fun to watch on screen, particularly with the snappy dialogue that works with his dry tone. Reeve delivers an entertaining performance, managing to balance a boyish charm and unpredictability quite nicely. Cannon is the weak link in the main cast, coming off a bit annoying at points, with her shrieking being a bit tiresome to hear, although she can come off as endearing for others. Worth is fairly amusing in the parts that she is in, playing her eccentric nature with the right kind of conviction and energy that never rattles too much off the deep end. The movie doesn't elicit too much in terms of scares, but it does manage to elicit excitement from its main two actors in the finale to make up for it. The movie has often been compared to Sleuth (1972), which also featured Caine; I can't say how my opinion would've changed had I seen the other film before this one, but I would hope that the viewing experience for either film isn't bent too much because of any kind of comparison-making. The movie manages to run itself fairly well at 116 minutes, never becoming tedious with its twists nor lengthening itself to ridiculous heights, having fun with the ways it moves the pieces of its jigsaw puzzle kind of plot (which you should see for yourself) handily. This is a fine gem that has some dark humor to go along with its clever nature that works in the places it needs to the most with its cast and arrangements that is interesting enough to recommend.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

March 23, 2018

Jumper (2008).


Review #1064: Jumper.

Cast: 
Hayden Christensen (David Rice), Rachel Bilson (Millie Harris), Samuel L. Jackson (Roland Cox), Jamie Bell (Griffin O'Connor), Diane Lane (Mary Rice), Teddy Dunn (Mark Kobold), and Michael Rooker (William Rice) Directed by Doug Liman.

Review: 
It is only fitting that a movie like this involve teleporting, since the film seems to like getting away from itself, constantly shuffling between two modes: erratic and plain. I can't say that the idea of teleporting wouldn't make for a good film (The Fly (#710), anybody?), but I can't say that this movie succeeds, mostly because there isn't much fun delivered with its story nor its contents. The film is based of the book of the same name by Steven Gould, who also contributed to the story (with a screenplay done by David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls & Simon Kinberg), and I imagine that the novel must've had some sort of energy and life to it that must've felt appealing to try and make a movie out of. To say the film feels jumbled is an overstatement, such as the "Paladins", the villains of the film that don't really have much development besides some vague reasoning, or "jump scars", since I guess jumping leaves a trail (or something like that). This is a stunted narrative that can't make us care about what is going on; it's not so much that the film's plot is insulting in a dumb way, it's just that the plot is bland and not particularly involving, with a lack of focus.

In a way, the flatness of the characters means that you can't put all of the blame on Christensen, who delivers a stiff performance that in no way helps the movie get any sort of life, although his character isn't even easy to go for. His character never does anything that makes you really want to root for him, and if it wasn't for the hunting by the paladins, you could re-write him into a villain, complete with a bratty nature and an even more boring amorality, complete with his first lines of the film that describes how he was a normal person, a "chump, just like you" (good start). He doesn't seem to be a terrible actor, but he definitely isn't good in this film. Bilson doesn't bring much energy to a role that feels stiffer than a board, complete with no real chemistry between her and Christensen. Jackson can't really make this villain character anything other than a cliche - where his grey hair is the most noteworthy thing about him. I'd say Bell is the highlight - but that isn't giving the movie any real favors. The rest of the small cast is fairly standard, not doing anything too particularly amusing. The effects aren't terrible, but they also aren't anything that'll make the film any prettier to look at, particularly since the action sequences seem muddled and ridiculous (combined with no real stakes). Even the climax is dull, and the fact that it ends so anti-climatically and so lazily makes for a perfect capstone in this mess. You could likely have a laugh with this if you're in the mood to make fun of a paperthin plot, a cast that can't elevate said material, and 88 minutes to kill., but even re-watching RoboCop 3 (#006) over this dreck seems preferable.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

March 21, 2018

Blood Simple.


Review #1063: Blood Simple.

Cast: 
John Getz (Ray), Frances McDormand (Abby), Dan Hedaya (Julian Marty), M. Emmet Walsh (Private detective Lorren Visser), Samm-Art Williams (Meurice), and Deborah Neumann (Debra) Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (#659 - True Grit (2010) and #765 - Fargo)

Review: 
Blood Simple was the directorial debut of the Coen brothers (although due to guild rules Joel was the one credited as director while Ethan was credited as producer, with both also writing the film), with future director Barry Sonnenfield serving as cinematographer. The film has its edge of darkness and amusing nature, with a fine balance that never comes off as inconsistent nor endless. It's a twisted film that also serves as a good neo-noir that pulls its devious strings of paranoia and guilt with characters that certainly accompany the movie in their own particular ways. Easily the best part of the film is Walsh, who manages to elevate the character onto a sort of legal edge that can be both ruthless and amusing - never coming off as too much of one thing while also being an interesting person to watch on-screen. Getz and McDormand prove to be a fairly decent pairing, being adept at their situations that make this escape of a romance seem right and not out-of-place. Hedaya plays his slimy role comfortably well, doing his role with a sort of relish and emotion that seems right at home for a film like this. The film certainly has a good look to it, having a feel to it that is important to making such a tawdry tale come alive without being glitzy nor overtly muddled. The climax is tense and quick to the point, with a final line that certainly closes the film out on the right note. It is clear that the Coen brothers had a good vision that they wanted to tell on-screen, and they certainly achieve that, weaving a film that succeeds as a piece of noir that manages to hit more times than it misses. They manage to build tension without suffocating the audience in too many cuts or being too long, with this film lasting 96 minutes (with a director's cut that tightens the editing along with shortening certain shots that runs slightly shorter), which feels just right for this movie. Ultimately, this is a fine piece of film-making from the Coen brothers that certainly shows a kind of ingenuity and flair that makes for good entertainment if you're in the mindset for it.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

March 15, 2018

The Strangers: Prey at Night.


Review #1062: The Strangers: Prey at Night.

Cast: 
Christina Hendricks (Cindy), Martin Henderson (Mike), Bailee Madison (Kinsey), Lewis Pullman (Luke), Emma Bellomy (Dollface), Damian Maffei (Man in the Mask), and Lea Enslin (Pin-Up Girl) Directed by Johannes Roberts.

Review: 
I will admit, this came out of left field. Spring Break means that random things can happen, such as friends deciding to want to see some scary - how can I get in the way of seeing some entertainment? This is likely the first ever time of having two consecutive reviews being part of the Theater Saga - hence why I try to make sure and watch new (interesting) films with a bit of space between them. I hope you enjoy this review. 

I knew nothing of this film nor the fact that it is a sequel to a film named (obviously) The Strangers (2008), with the director/writer of that film serving as writer for this movie. For what I looked up, that film was inspired by the Tate murders along with a series of break-ins that happened in Bertino's neighborhood as a kid, with the same inspirations applying to this film. Admittedly, the idea of random strangers committing crimes without much reason could make for an interesting film, and I imagine that the first film likely had at least some sort of success with that idea, because I didn't find too much to really enjoy with this movie. It is not so much that the film is exactly terrible or anything, but I didn't find it too particularly scary. Perhaps it is easy to admit that the story is thinner than a cracker when the film has a 85 minute run-time and a small cast, which makes for a relatively small body count, with the film not having much in terms of energy to respond with. The fact that there are a few dumb moments (that you might expect for horror or slasher films) doesn't help too much with getting the film to click. The killers are what they are, strangers with masks, which is somewhat creepy but not enough to really carry the movie to pure fright. The secluded setting is fine and quiet for what the movie wants, and the way it is shot is also alright (with no real resorting of jump scares or anything too ridiculous), but it never seems to really click to make something that I can get with. It doesn't feel like a cash-grab or something cynical (I was surprised to note that it was made for $5 million, however), which I suppose gives the film some sort of credit.

The fact that the first half of the film feels a tad dull doesn't particularly help; it isn't that the actors are terrible, it just seems that the material doesn't spark much, with Hendricks being a decent standout with her material. Madison isn't too terrible, but the material isn't too helpful. That's not to say that there aren't other films with exposition that isn't particularly interesting (along with the fact that a film doesn't need to have much in terms of story to work), but the half that follows doesn't make up for it. At times it can be a bit creepy, but it isn't anything that could also be made fun of (and at least one or two cliche action in the middle of the pursuit), with a climax that feels a bit too stretched and an ending that just feels like it is taunting you. The fact that the film is an R helps make sure the violence doesn't get washed out, so there's that at least. The film utilizes music that you might call "ironic" for what you might expect in a horror flick, such as "Kids in America" for the opening and other music choices - which I suppose will have an effect for some, although I didn't really get much from it in terms of chills. If you like slasher/horror flicks, you could like the film. If you were a fan of the original film, chances are you might get a kick out of seeing another film with these strangers. In any case, it's up to you to decide. This is the kind of movie that I can't hate nor give much credit to, falling in the middle that will find a place in some people's minds but will likely go down for me as something that just passes through in the annals of middle-of-the-road horror flicks.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

March 14, 2018

The Shape of Water.


Review #1061: The Shape of Water.

Cast: 
Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito), Michael Shannon (Colonel Richard Strickland), Richard Jenkins (Giles), Octavia Spencer (Zelda Delilah Fuller), Michael Stuhlbarg (Dimitri Mosenkov), Doug Jones ("Amphibian Man"), David Hewlett (Fleming), and Nick Searcy (General Frank Hoyt) Directed by Guillermo del Toro (#425 - Pacific Rim)

Review: 
Admittedly, I can't tell which was more surprising: the fact that this was the winner of Best Picture (beating such films as Get Out (#909) and Dunkirk (#980) while also winning Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design) or the fact that this came to my local theater in the middle of March, different from how I usually review films in the Theater Saga. In any case, enjoy a interesting case for Movie Night.

The world of fantasy can provide an outlet for creative movies on both a visual and story lervel that can have things just be what they are while dealing with subject that other genres can have shortcomings with. While this film may not be perfect with everything that it does, it is at the very least a fine achievement. It is interesting to note del Toro's level of involvement with this project, serving as director, co-writer, and producer, which makes the seem to be a clear passion project for him, and he projects that with an abundance of visual flair and imagination that works for what he intends - for the most part. I found that the film worked best when it showed off its characters and style more so than its story. Maybe it will go down as a great classic, maybe it will not, but I think it will at least find a place in the places of fantasy and romance people's hearts.

 It is evident that del Toro wanted his film to achieve a look that would sell his film as something to care for and appreciate, with Dan Lausten's cinematography along with Paul D. Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin with production design and Alexandre Desplat's music, all striking at the chords for good effect. The main cast all do a fine job, with Hawkins shining in delivering a capable performance through the way she moves her face (since she communicates only through American Sign Language) and through her physicality that shines through and through. Shannon manages to turn what could've been just a cliche adversary and manages to make it feel interesting and useful to want to keep watching in a ruthlessly effective way. Jenkins does a fine job being the counterpart to Hawkins, being useful to watch. Spencer also provides a bit of levity along with sense to the film that helps give the film focus. Stuhlbarg also proves to be fairly nice in his role, and Jones does a decent job under all that makeup. The story by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor is a bit familiar in some of its notes, but it is at the least entertaining enough to make something worthwhile, having a fairy tale involving what is essentially inspired by movie monsters or arguably Beauty and the Beast. It falls into sentimentality at times, and perhaps it takes itself a bit too seriously, but there is enough drive and spirit to push itself over the finish line and succeed with elegance, which might've felt ridiculous or weirder in other hands. Are there moments in the film that seem a bit silly? Yes, particularly some parts with Hawkins and Jones, but also a bit in the climax (which I can't really spoil), but there also manages to be enough interesting moments too with the cast that makes up for it. I find the movie fine enough to recommend, provided that you are in the mood for what it tries to tell through its passion.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

March 13, 2018

National Lampoon's European Vacation.


Review #1060: National Lampoon's European Vacation.

Cast: 
Chevy Chase (Clark Griswald), Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen Griswald), Dana Hill (Audrey Griswald), Jason Lively (Russell "Rusty" Griswald), Victor Lanoux (The Thief), Eric Idle (The Bike Rider), John Astin (Kent Winkdale), Mel Smith (London Hotel Manager),  Robbie Coltrane (Man in Bathroom), Maureen Lipman (Lady in the Bed), William Zabka (Jack), Willy Millowitsch (Fritz Spritz), and Erika Wackernagel (Helga Spritz) Directed by Amy Heckerling (#982 - Fast Times at Ridgemont High)

Review: 
It is interesting to note that I finally am getting to this film, the sequel to the original to National Lampoon's Vacation (#804) but paradoxically this serves as my third review of the Vacation series, since I also reviewed National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (#771). In any case, I hope at least some of you fellow readers are enjoying Spring Break, or any sort of vacation. 

There is a certain amount of charm and amusement that sprung from the situations and the cast from the first film that made for a fairly entertaining movie, with Chase and D'Angelo being key highlights. The latter part of my statement is still true, but I can't say that this is a particularly good film. I don't hate it, but I know without much doubt that this is a fairly average movie. The biggest problem is that the film gradually feels repetitive the longer it dwells in all of these locations that the film gets itself to, feeling episodic and not always consistent. There are some famous landmarks seen throughout the film (with a few of them used for gags), which are fairly interesting to look at, such as Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Colosseum, so that's a fair highlight. Chase and D'Angelo manage to generate some amusement once again, being the best part of the film due to feeling the most adept for this material and the most familiar. Hill and Lively do okay, but some of the gags with them are a bit hit-and-miss, with the jokes involving the former binging on food seeming old after a while. Throughout the four locations (London, Paris, West Germany, Rome) is a bunch of different personalities and cast members that make for okay experiences to watch with the main four, with a bunch of cliches that one would expect. It doesn't really have anything too rip-roaring aside from a few moments involving visual gags and a bit of crass humor, but it isn't anything too particularly terrible, just being a bit silly (which I don't hate, actually). At least at 94 minutes it isn't particularly a big waste, but it doesn't too particularly well when compared to the original film. I don't find this to be anything too special, but sometimes that may very well just be enough on vacation.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

March 12, 2018

The Big Chill.


Review #1059: The Big Chill.

Cast: 
Tom Berenger (Sam Weber), Glenn Close (Sarah Cooper), Jeff Goldblum (Michael Gold), William Hurt (Nick Carlton), Kevin Kline (Harold Cooper), Mary Kay Place (Meg Jones), Meg Tilly (Chloe), JoBeth Williams (Karen Bowens), and Don Galloway (Richard Bowens) Directed by Lawrence Kasdan.

Review: 
Admittedly, recollections about the past can tend to make for an interesting subject for a film, so it is no surprise to see that Lawrence Kasdan, writer of films such as The Empire Strikes Back (#114), Raiders of the Lost Ark (#168), and Return of the Jedi (#115), directed and wrote a film involving the reunion of old friends from the baby boomer generation (with this film along with Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980) serving as influences for the creation of the show thirtysomething). It is strange to note that there were scenes cut out that had featured Alex, the one who had committed suicide (featuring a then-unknown Kevin Costner), and I do wonder what it would've done to the pace and tone of the film. In any case, it's not hard to say that this is neither a great nor terrible movie, falling in the middle fairly easily, for better or worse. The ensemble cast is fairly enjoyable, particularly Berenger, Hurt, Kline, and Tilly. Each of them has something that stands out, such as Berenger and his entertaining type of allure that contrasts with his thoughts on having fame (and memories from the past), or Hurt and his bitter but honest nature that clicks in some way with Tilly (the lone standout in the main ensemble not part of the main generation), with Kline being a fine straight man and pillar along with Close. Goldblum is also fairly entertaining and amusing, and Kay Place and Williams are also fine. The cast manages to make what could've been a bunch of cliches seem a bit more fruitful and watchable. The movie (shot in Beaufort, South Carolina) has a fine look to it that certainly clicks with uniting these people without looking too fake. The soundtrack of the film is pretty interesting, having highlights such as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising", so I'll give the film credit for having a fine pick of music.

The film has its serious moments of looking at the past, but it also has a few moments for some laughs that make for a good enjoyment for most of its running time of 105 minutes. I will admit that the ending is probably a bit too neat and probably a bit too convenient for someone looking for something a bit more, although that depends on what one is expecting. Do you want something that tries to say something about nostalgia? You'll get it with this movie, although you may not get everything with it. If you want something that tries to face nostalgia with reality, this could (or could not) be for you. I can't exactly fault someone for liking films that try to throw itself back with nostalgia (after all, I am writing this review in the same year that Ready Player One is coming out, so make of that what you will), but I find that the movie is fine (if not really anything too great) with weaving a story with some depth from its recollection. For lack of a better way to say it, The Big Chill is a finely packaged film if you're in the mood for what it offers you.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

March 9, 2018

Battling Butler.


Review #1058: Battling Butler.

Cast: 
Buster Keaton (Alfred Butler), Sally O'Neil (The Mountain Girl), Walter James (Her Father), Budd Fine (Her Brother), Francis McDonald (Alfred "Battling" Butler), Mary O'Brien (His Wife), Tom Wilson (His Trainer), Eddie Borden (His Manager), and Snitz Edwards (Alfred's Valet) Directed by Buster Keaton (#757 - Seven Chances#762 - College#805 - The Navigator#877 - Three Ages#908 - The General#926 - Our Hospitality#941 - Sherlock Jr, and #1037 - Go West)

Review: 
Battling Butler was Keaton's eighth starring role in a feature film, and it was based on a stage play of the same name by Walter L. Rosemont and Ballard MacDonald, which had ran for 313 performances from 1923 to 1924. In any case, while I will give the film credit for having some amusing moments, I can't say that it is one of Keaton's finest pieces of work. Keaton is sharp as ever, particularly in the boxing sequences, which serve for some fine laughs along with showing his willingness to do rough stuff (such as stunts) in order to sell the scene, which works fairly well. O'Neil is fine, having the kind of energy and grace you'd expect. James and Fine prove to be fairly imposing figures, leading to a few laughs. The rest of the cast is okay; Edwards proves to be a fairly amusing character to follow throughout the film, having the kind of expressions and movements you'd expect from him. The movie goes at a fair pace of 71 minutes without any real slog, although the parts with boxing/training fare a bit better than the other parts, which are okay if not anything too special. It is fun to see Keaton play a pampered individual, and he does a decent job with making the character as likable as he can. The sequence at the end with Keaton boxing is pretty decent, serving as a good way to cap the film (that, and him walking off with the girl with a top hat and boxing shorts). The film doesn't stand out too great from Keaton's other films (such as his classics), but it is at the very least acceptable entertainment, compact with decent gags, a flowing story and just enough zip to come out a winner of sorts.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

March 8, 2018

Lucy (2014).


Review #1057: Lucy.

Cast: 
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy), Morgan Freeman (Professor Norman), Choi Min-sik (Mr. Jang), Amr Waked (Pierre Del Rio), Julian Rhind-Tutt (The Limey), Pilou Asbæk (Richard), Analeigh Tipton (Caroline), and Nicolas Phongpheth (Jii) Directed by Luc Besson (#027 - The Fifth Element)

Review: 
It isn't hard to refute the film's use of the urban legend that we only use 10 percent of our brains, but I imagine you've already heard about the myth or figured that giving the movie heat for using this as a metaphor isn't worth much in the grand scheme of things. In any case, I will say that this isn't an insulting movie to watch, but I also can't say I enjoyed the film positively. It isn't an idiotic movie, but it also isn't a movie for ones looking for something too logical. It definitely doesn't ring too well as a science fiction film, but it is capable in some way as an action thriller, for better or for worse, with at least some sort of fine style to it. Johansson does okay in showing a bit of vulnerability with her character, but the other parts of the movie that involve some sort of philosophy don't click too well, although I can't imagine anyone making this feel any less wooden. Freeman serves as exposition (particularly in the beginning), with the film taking its time for him to intersect with Johansson. Although the cast is fairly decent, none of the characters are particularly worthy of investing in, since we are dealing with a person in the film that literally cannot be stopped, which means that there are no real stakes to the film. I wonder what would've happened if there had been another person who managed to obtain the same kind of abilities that Lucy had with the drug (after all, there were three others used as mules to transport it), maybe as some sort of contrast to her. It probably would've resulted in a murky and heavy-handed climax, but it might've made for something that would've made the movie seem more useful. It only makes sense that the film resembles (in small part) to 2001: A Space Odyssey, since Besson is quoted as stating that the his movie's last part resembles 2001, after having shifted from resembling Léon: The Professional (1994, which Besson directed and wrote) to Inception (2010) to 2001. I would add that his movie reminds me of what would happen if a student decided to try and learn more philosophy and science by rolling down a hill on a giant tire.

It is interesting to note that it took me over a thousand reviews to actually review another film done by Luc Besson, particularly one that is also a French film (with a primary use of English language along with some use of Korean and French), so make of that what you will. There is a certain mania that consumes the movie that can work to the film's advantage if one is the right mindset for it. The animal imagery (obviously intended as some sort of symbolism) utilized at times in the film is ridiculous, particularly when used for the opening sequences (interspliced with exposition from Freeman talking) that I suppose makes the philosophy of the film look less surprisingly ridiculous. The movie (which has a pace of 90 minutes) doesn't advocate for anything ridiculous or insulting (although I suppose one could take umbrage with some of the sequences and lines). While the climax has a decent fight sequence, it is the end that takes the cake in terms of being the capstone for such a ridiculous film, with my favorite line being "I AM EVERYWHERE", which you'd think would be something that a villain would say. At the end of the day, this is an off the wall kind of movie that I will give credit for trying to be ambitious, even if I find it to be just a bit off its mark of intent, although your mileage may vary. This is a film made to entertain, and on that it may very well succeed, but I can't say that I liked Lucy enough to really put a positive spin for.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

March 7, 2018

The Pearl of Death.


Review #1056: The Pearl of Death.

Cast: 
Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Dr. John Watson), Evelyn Ankers (Naomi Drake), Dennis Hoey (Inspector Lestrade), Miles Mander (Giles Conover), Ian Wolfe (Amos Hodder), Charles Francis (Digby), Holmes Herbert (James Goodram), Richard Nugent (Bates), Mary Gordon (Mrs. Hudson), and Rondo Hatton (The Creeper) Directed by Roy William Neill (#846 - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man#873 - Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon#925 - Sherlock Holmes in Washington#936 - Sherlock Holmes Faces Death#1021 - The Spider Woman, and #1040 - The Scarlet Claw)

Review: 
The Pearl of Death (released less than three months after The Scarlet Claw) is the ninth film in the Sherlock Holmes series with Rathbone and Bruce, with this film involving the search of a valuable pearl that is linked to a series of murders. Given that previous plots have involved supernatural terrors, pyjama murders, house murders and wartime spy plots, I can't say that this plot is any stranger or weirder than the other films. As such, this film meets the standards for fans of the series, with no real detraction or distractions. Once again, Rathbone and Bruce do their jobs with the right kind of class and mannerisms that you would expect, although it is weird that the film has Holmes inadvertently starting the main plot by exposing the security system that protects the pearl. The supporting cast is acceptable, with Ankers and Mander playing capable adversaries without any bombast. Hoey does a fine job as expected, with a bit of entertaining banter between him and Rathbone. In any case, the rest of the movie is fairly suspenseful, moving along with all the right patterns and pace (69 minutes) that will satisfy people in the mindset for it that doesn't come off as an listless retread of any tricks utilized in the other films in the slightest.

The story took inspiration from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons", with the additions of an accomplice to the villain and The Creeper, played by Hatton. He became an icon of sorts due to his unusual facial features that were caused by acromegaly, which distorted his head shape along with his face that happened to him gradually after he had been a soldier in World War I and a journalist. He had appeared in small roles in four other movies prior to this one. The reception of Hatton (who delivers a decent if not briefly sinister job in his time on screen) and his portrayal of the Creeper led to Universal Pictures casting him into two other films with his as "The Creeper" (albeit unrelated to this film): House of Horror and The Brute Man, both released in 1946, the same year of Hatton's death. In any case, this is a capable film that works just as well as most of the other Holmes films.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

March 6, 2018

Porky's.


Review #1055: Porky's.

Cast: 
Dan Monahan (Edward "Pee Wee" Morris), Mark Herrier (Billy McCarty), Wyatt Knight (Tommy Turner), Roger Wilson (Mickey Jarvis), Cyril O'Reilly (Tim Cavanaugh), Tony Ganios (Anthony "Meat" Tuperello), Kaki Hunter (Wendy Williams), Kim Cattrall (Miss Lynn "Lassie" Honeywell), Nancy Parsons (Coach Beulah Balbricker), Scott Colomby (Brian Schwartz), Boyd Gaines (Coach Roy Brackett), Doug McGrath (Coach Fred Warren), and Chuck Mitchell (Porky Wallace) Directed by Bob Clark (#020 - A Christmas Story and #679 - Black Christmas)

Review: 
Admittedly, I am not the biggest watcher of teen comedies. Aside from a few exceptions (#207 - Ferris Bueller's Day Off, #982 - Fast Times at Ridgemont High, #1032 - Superbad), this is generally a genre I'm not all too big with, although I'll say that at least I went into this film with an open mind, trying to not give this movie a hard time on purpose. In any case, this is a raunchy kind of teen flick that didn't really click with me all too well, although I can at least recognize its influence for other teen comedies, for better or for worse. The characters are vaguely memorable, but I didn't really find anybody to be really that funny, particularly since nobody looks/sounds like teenagers to begin with. The standout for me is Chuck Mitchell, who (despite being billed deep into the credits) plays Porky with the right kind of intimidation and sleazy nature that works in the short amount of time he's on screen, being the right kind of pig in a farm of mild-leveled ferrets trying to make you laugh. For me, the situations didn't really click for me, whether it was the main plot or the parts with other characters because the cliches feel smarmy this time around.

The film is vulgar and gross, but it isn't something that you would be surprised by, with one or two funny gags throughout. Director Bob Clark based off incidents from his time of growing up in high school and college for the film, and while I can't say they make for very funny instances, I will at least credit him for trying to make a film that looks like something a teenager could relate to. I can't get mad at something that is low bar if it aims for it intentionally. The film was shot in Florida, but it was produced by a Canadian company, Astral Bellevue Pathe Inc, with the success of the film meaning that it is the most successful "Canadian" film of all time. Like it or hate it, Porky's manages to both attract and repel audiences based on its content and weirdness. I can't really endorse it, but I also can't condemn it for being the film it wants to be, so I'd say it is something that could pique your interest if you're in the state of mind for it.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

March 2, 2018

The Great Dictator.


Review #1054: The Great Dictator.

Cast: 
Charlie Chaplin (Adenoid Hynkel - Dictator of Tomania / A Jewish Barber), Paulette Goddard (Hannah), Jack Oakie (Napaloni - Dictator of Bacteria), Henry Daniell (Garbitsch), Reginald Gardiner (Schultz), Billy Gilbert (Herring), Maurice Moscovitch (Mr. Jaeckel), Grace Hayle (Madame Napaloni), Carter DeHaven (Bacterian Ambassador), Emma Dunn (Mrs. Jaeckel), Bernard Gorcey (Mr. Mann), Paul Weigel (Mr. Agar), and Chester Conklin (Barber's Customer) Directed by Charlie Chaplin (#353 - Monsieur Verdoux#599 - The Kid#600 - City Lights#759 - The Gold Rush#775 - Shoulder Arms#820 - Modern Times#923 - The Pilgrim#1025 - The Circus, and #1041 - A Woman of Paris)

Review: 
The Great Dictator was Charlie Chaplin's first true sound film, along with his first without his character of "The Tramp", which he had utilized for his silent films. In any case, the film was released a year after the beginning of World War II, with Chaplin playing a parody of Adolf Hitler and Oakie playing a parody of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, although it was noted by Chaplin in later years that had he knew about the horrors of the concentration camps, he wouldn't have made the film. The film manages to be brilliant in utilizing comedy, satire and drama without having either of its elements being lost in excess, being a funny but also brave movie that holds its principles together by finding a balance in its two environments, with credit going to Chaplin and his script. Chaplin also does a tremendous job in both of his roles, having a fine distinct nature that works well within the mistaken identity parts later on, with the dictator parts having numerous highlights with all of the gestures and posturing that definitely strikes a chord. The parts with the barber might remind you a bit of the Tramp, although he plays it more of a outsider type that certainly fits. Goddard does a fine job in her parts on screen, having fine chemistry with Chaplin at points. Oakie does a stand-out job, having the correct amount of bombast and stature that makes for amusing rapport with Chaplin when they are both on screen together, particularly one scene involving chairs. Daniell and Gardiner also do fine jobs in their parts, distinct in their roles within the dictatorship that leave room for amusement. The rest of the actors do fair jobs in their roles. There are numerous great sequences and gags involving both slapstick and language, with one of my favorites being the ballet with a globe, which is helped by the music by Meredith Willson and Charlie Chaplin, fairly brilliant in its own right that has a fine timing to them that helps contributes to the flow of the film effectively for several scenes. The cinematography by Karl Struss and Roland Totheroh (a regular for some of Chaplin's films) is acceptable for the movie and its look.

The film does run finely at 124 minutes, never feeling too long. I will state that the climax of the film feels a bit sudden, particularly since it ends with a speech, which is an inspiring piece at least, so I can't blame Chaplin for wanting to incorporate it in a film he had all control over. Since that serves as the last point for the film, it is strange to wonder what would've happened after that point in the film, although apparently a folk dance sequence was apparently going to serve as the finale, and there were also plans to include shots of people from all over the world that would accept the message of peace, but these were abandoned after a bit of shooting from Chaplin. In any case, the movie isn't ruined by the last part, so take his words for what you will. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards (Outstanding Production (now known as Best Picture), Best Actor, Writing (Original Screenplay), Best Supporting Actor (Oakie), & Best Music (Original Score), although it fell short each time. It has since been selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, and it is easy to see why. This is a brilliantly made movie that serves as a fine piece of entertainment for all ages that belongs with the rest of Chaplin's classics for a look.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

February 26, 2018

Bloodsport.


Review #1053: Bloodsport.

Cast: 
Jean-Claude Van Damme (Frank Dux), Bolo Yeung (Chong Li), Donald Gibb (Ray Jackson), Leah Ayres (Janice Kent), Norman Burton (Helmer), Forest Whitaker (Rawlins), Ken Siu (Victor Lin), Roy Chiao (Senzo Tanaka), Michel Qissi (Suan Paredes), and Philip Chan (Inspector Chen) Directed by Newt Arnold.

Review: 
This film was released 30 years ago on this day today. So why not do a review for it? That's my best justification for doing this movie. Hopefully you enjoy the review.

What can I say about this movie? What is there to write about a film starring "international martial arts sensation" Jean-Claude Van Damme that doesn't end in some sort of laughter or amazement that it exists (and naturally fitting for the 1980s)? The best thing to say is that at least it is a movie filled with some fair moments of action, although it is not accompanied by much in terms of story nor acting. This was the second feature role for Van Damme, who had appeared in No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) along with minor roles in other films (such as Breakin' in 1984), and while the easy thing to do would be to simply make fun of him for his performance (as one could do with the film), I will state that there is a certain level of intrigue that Van Damme inspires (for better or for worse) that keeps the movie from becoming a bore, mostly because he doesn't become a victim to the plot, as thin and preposterous as it gets. Gibb is enjoyably over-the-top, giving me a few chuckles (take that for what its worth). Yeung plays his adversary role with a fine polish that doesn't give him much dialogue but does manage to make him at least look the part of the big bad. Ayres does okay, although I can't say the romance subplot with her and Van Damme is anything too special. Burton and Whitaker prove to be an odd duo to pursue the main character that don't click too particularly well with the film, but at least they don't derail the movie. The rest of the cast isn't too noteworthy, but they do their parts reasonably fine.

When asked about the film (with relation to Frank Dux, whose exploits had been covered in the magazine Black Belt in 1980), co-writer Sheldon Lettich stated that he had known Dux months prior to thinking up the idea for the film, stating that he "told me a lot of tall tales, most of which turned out to be bullshit. But his stories about participating in this so-called "Kumite" event sounded like a great idea for a movie." It should be noted that Dux served as fighting coordinator for the film, putting Van Damme through a three month training program. I will state the action sequences (along with Van Damme's splits) are reasonably impressive at times, managing to have a good amount of spectacle that makes the movie seem worth it during its 92 minute run-time. Whether one puts much weight on Dux's "kumite experiences" is up to the viewer, but does it get in the way of enjoying the movie? No, partly because I doubt anyone watches the movie expecting this "true story" to be anything other than a tall tale that would likely make Paul Bunyan blush. Take this film for what it is: a ridiculous, but uninsulting piece of work that doesn't try to overextend itself beyond just attempting to be entertainment. Do I like it? No, but I can see why someone else would.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

February 23, 2018

Miracle (2004).


Review #1052: Miracle.

Cast: 
Kurt Russell (Herb Brooks), Patricia Clarkson (Patti Brooks), Noah Emmerich (Craig Patrick), Sean McCann (Walter Bush), Kenneth Welsh (Doc Nagobads), Eddie Cahill (Jim Craig), Patrick O'Brien Demsey (Mike Eruzione), Michael Mantenuto (Jack O'Callahan), Nathan West (Rob McClanahan), Kenneth Mitchell (Ralph Cox), Eric Peter-Kaiser (Mark Johnson), and Bobby Hanson (Dave Silk) Directed by Gavin O'Connor.

Review: 
Congratulations to the United States women's national ice hockey team, who won the Olympic Gold medal over Canada earlier yesterday, which also served as the 38th anniversary of the Miracle of Ice. In any case, I hope you enjoy this review.

What is there to say about the Miracle on Ice that hasn't already been said over the past 38 years? Particularly for the people that weren't alive to watch on February 22, 1980? Admittedly, there was a television movie based on the events that was released the following year (with starring Karl Malden in the main role), utilizing footage and original commentary from the game itself. The story of how the United States managed to beat the mighty power of the Soviet Union for the first time since winning gold in 1960 is an interesting one for people who dig into sports (which I do from time to time, particularly Of Miracles and Men (2015), which told about the Miracle on Ice through the eyes of the Soviet team members), but can it make for an entertaining film? The answer is yes, in part because of Russell, but also because the movie is honest enough to tell its tale without embellishing itself in too many cliches or anything too fancy. The film focuses itself on Russell and his moments in trying to portray a coach as honest and yet complex man who we find to be an interesting person to watch throughout. He just fits in so naturally, without any doubt to the way he plays it. Oddly enough, the only thing that wasn't particularly accurate was Brooks being friendly with the players (shown by him being at the Christmas party), with one player saying: "We respected him, but I wouldn't say that we liked him". The film's 135 minute pace feels satisfactory enough without being suffocating, and the film certainly has a correct feel that never looks suspiciously off-putting nor distracting.

There is time given to show some of the twenty hockey players that made up the roster, with Cahill and Demsey being fine standouts among the bunch. The players certainly look the part, with the hockey action being quite energetic and intense, looking fairly convincing without any resorting to anything too flashy, with accompanying commentary from Al Michaels and Ken Dryden (who had done the commentary for the original game, with all but the final ten seconds being recreated by the two). Clarkson isn't given too much to do, but she does her part convincingly enough. Emmerich does a fine time with the part he has, feeling fairly useful along with right for the part. McCann and Welsh do alright with the small amount of time they have to speak, but they serve as fair pieces to the film. A slight bit of time is given to show the Soviets, but the movie doesn't resort to trying to make them out to be villainous, instead just showing them and their dominance simply and naturally (except for the final, of course). This is a fine piece of entertainment, striving for satisfaction and achieving its goal without straining itself too hard in part because of a satisfactory cast with Russell doing a highlight job and hockey action that serves as tools to showcase the Miracle on Ice, being as majestic as it must've felt back then that still works now. It isn't anything too great, but it satisfies everything required with flying colors and that is more than enough.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

February 21, 2018

Cleopatra (1912).


Review #1051: Cleopatra.

Cast: 
Helen Gardner (Cleopatra - Queen of Egypt), Mr. Howard (Pharon), Charles Sindelar (Mark Antony), James R. Waite (Venditius - A Roman soldier), Mr. Osborne (Diomedes), Harry Knowles (Kephren - Captain of the Guards to the Queen), Mr. Paul (Octavius - A Triumvir and General), Mr. Brady (Serapian - An Egyptian priest), Mr. Corker (Ixias - Servant to Ventidius), Pearl Sindelar (Iras - An attendant), Miss Fielding (Charmian - An attendant), Miss Robson (Octavia - Wife of Antony), and Helene Costello (Nicola - Child) Directed by Charles L. Gaskill.

Review: 
You may notice that there is quite a bit of history citing in this review that I think helps give a bit of context to the film and its historic nature that I hope informs you without being detracting to the quality of the review. 

It is quite an achievement to note the age of a film like this, which as of this year is 106, with this being the oldest movie ever covered by me on Movie Night along with being the 11th from the 1910s. It is one of the earliest feature films, with examples of feature length movies (in this case being ones that lasted nearly or longer than a hour) including L'Inferno (1911) from Italy, Defence of Sevastopol (1911) from Russia, and Richard III (1912), a French-American production that had been released a month prior to this film (here is a fun fact: the first dramatic feature movie was The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) that was made in Australia). This was produced by The Helen Gardner Picture Players (one of the first film production companies set up by a woman) that was adapted from the 1890 play Cléopâtre by Victorien Sardou, and the movie has a stagey feel to it that isn't surprising to say the least. Admittedly, this is more of a curiosity piece than anything, but is there anything wrong with wanting to see a capsule of something from an era long gone? Particularly one that has managed to survive to this very day, unlike the 1917 version of Cleopatra (which starred Theda Bara while being an adaptation of a novel of the same name), which was lost after the Fox studios vault fires of 1937, with Gardner's film being re-released the following year in order to compete with that edition, with two inter-titles being subjected to cuts by censorship boards: "If I let you live and love me ten days, will you then destroy yourself?" and "Suppose Anthony were told that she had just left the embraces of the slave Pharon", so make of that what you will.

In any case, this film begins with a title card that states that certain stage traditions haven't been considered when making this movie, as the director's goal is to insure naturalness while making a romantic atmosphere, with the Author's goal being to try and capture the qualities of the woman "devotedly loved by Julius Caesar", with freedom being taken in the adaptation. I can't say I've read that kind of title card before. Gardner is the most noteworthy person in the film, and she manages to do a good job in keeping our interest, and it should be noted that she designed her costume herself along with serving as editor (imagine an actor/actress doing that in this day and age), which is certainly interesting. The rest of the actors do the kind of job you'd expect, somewhat stagey but never too boring to watch on screen. The camerawork isn't any too special, but for the time it was made it is fairly respectable. The title cards (of which there are dozens of) lend a hand to telling the story that manages to feel useful without being too intrusive. If there is anything that can be said about this film, it can be that this is a fairly ambitious product of its time, being quite an achievement for the era that it was made in without becoming a relic not worth looking over. This was a movie that played in theatrical roadshows and even opera houses. It isn't a hard film to find due to being in the public domain, though I will state that it is best to make sure to watch one with a music score (obviously). Is it primitive? In some ways you could say that, but for 1912, I'm sure it must've been quite the charmer in terms of entertainment. I can't say that this is anything too great nor anything too awful, but I can definitely say that it is something that is worth checking out, even if only to see something that manages to have some appeal after a century since its release.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

February 19, 2018

Black Panther.


Review #1050: Black Panther.

Cast: 
Chadwick Boseman (T'Challa / Black Panther), Michael B. Jordan (Erik Killmonger), Lupita Nyong'o (Nakia), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Martin Freeman (Everett K. Ross), Daniel Kaluuya (W'Kabi), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Winston Duke (M'Baku), Sterling K. Brown (N'Jobu), Angela Bassett (Ramonda), Forest Whitaker (Zuri), Andy Serkis (Ulysses Klaue), Florence Kasumba (Ayo), and John Kani (T'Chaka) Directed by Ryan Coogler (#760 - Creed)

Review: 
The Marvel Cinematic Universe films have had a scope and quality to them that make for a consistently entertaining series of movies, and it is hard to believe that it has been ten years since the release of the film that started it all, Iron Man (#135). While it can be argued that these comic book films do tend fall along traditional formulas, it is the tweaking of certain aspects that make for the successes that have occurred, whether with a tinge of humor or with a tinge of humanity to it. After all, this is the 18th film in the franchise, and while you could equate them to products in a line, at least they are fairly solid products. In the case of Black Panther, this is a good movie that pushes most of the right buttons to make for a solid winner. The best quote that can be said about the movie comes from itself: "Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved".

As mentioned in my review for Blade (1998), the film had originally been slated for development with Wesley Snipes in mind in the 1990s, although it languished in development for two decades, with Chadwick Boseman eventually being cast in the role in 2014. Black Panther (based off the comic book series of the same name that was originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) had already been showed on the big screen prior to his own film, as he was introduced in Captain America: Civil War (#796) two years ago, and I remember he had made a fine impression on me. Obviously this film gives Boseman more time to show his character off, and he excels, managing to be an interesting hero with enough gravitas that manages to holds his own in a cast with a good deal of variety. Jordan does a great job, managing to show a good deal of charisma along with fury that makes for an interesting villain that stands out, particularly for a film universe that has not had the best of villain portrayals. Nyong'o and Gurira manage to provide capable performances that are fairly strong along with interesting to watch on screen, each having their own respective moments to shine. Freeman doesn't have much time on screen, but he does provide a satisfactory enough performance. Kaluuya doesn't have a lot to do with his character, but he does the best of what he can. Wright does a fine performance, having some clever charm along with characteristics reminding me of "Q" from the James Bond series while also having some amusing scenes with Boseman. Serkis manages to have a good scenery chewing time, for the time that he gets on screen anyway. The rest of the cast do a fine job in their respective roles and functions, such as Duke and his adversarial but crucial role or Whitaker and his mystical nature.

The themes of the film work to the film's advantage, presenting its arguments without being ham-handed in approach. There are other things deserving praise, such as Rachel Morrison and her cinematography and Ruth E. Carter's costume design, both working fairly well to complement the film, making for a worthy atmosphere to watch. The action sequences are fairly hit and miss; while I do appreciate some of the fight sequences, there are times when it feels a bit too standardized, with the climax serving as mild entertainment when not utilizing too much effects, and the resolution to the film is fairly satisfactory, with its 134 minute run-time being acceptable enough for me. I do appreciate that the movie doesn't try to tie itself to other films of the comic franchise too much (aside from a flashback or so), being a film that is interesting in just showing itself off without lingering too much on little details. Ultimately, this is a film that is a pretty good success, achieving its goals well without betraying its principles.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.