December 13, 2017

My Favorite Year.


Review #1024: My Favorite Year.

Cast: 
Peter O'Toole (Alan Swann), Mark Linn-Baker (Benjy Stone), Jessica Harper (K.C. Downing), Joseph Bologna (Stan "King" Kaiser), Bill Macy (Sy Benson), Ramon Sison (Rookie Carroca), Lainie Kazan (Belle Carroca), Lou Jacobi (Uncle Morty), Adolph Green (Leo Silver), and Anne De Salvo (Alice Miller) Directed by Richard Benjamin.

Review: 
Who doesn't like a movie with a larger-than-life character? Whether based in fact or in fiction, there is an appeal to seeing them interact with others, especially if the actor playing the part is one that can certainly do the job adequately enough. In any case, this is a movie that lives on how entertaining and dynamic O'Toole plays the role, which is reminiscent of Errol Flynn. He brings a certain amount of gravitas and charm that carry the movie at points where a lesser actor would've made it feel not as endurable. Ultimately, the movie is pretty good, having enough laughs and competence to make for a satisfying experience. Undeniably, the movie is at its best when it features O'Toole and his energy on screen, and he has fine chemistry with Linn-Baker (who doesn't have as much energy) when they share time together in the film. The other parts of the film are fairly amusing, with Bologna making his character (a representation of Sid Caesar) interesting to watch. Macy is also pretty good, keeping things together at a fine pace. The romance parts with Linn-Baker and Harper (who both are fine) aren't entirely as strong as the other parts of the film, but they are at the very least watchable, if not too particularly interesting. The film is also fairly good when it talks about the life of a movie star and what it particularly means, which goes a bit better than the parts revolving around making the show, although there aren't too many dull moments. The final sequence with the show is actually pretty amusing, inspiring a good amount of laughs that ultimately make the movie worth it. It isn't anything too great, but O'Toole makes the film his own and makes it something worth watching at least once. Is it great? No, but it sure is fun to watch.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

December 12, 2017

8 Mile.


Review #1023: 8 Mile.

Cast: 
Eminem (Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith, Jr), Kim Basinger (Stephanie), Brittany Murphy (Alex Latourno), Mekhi Phifer (Future), Anthony Mackie ("Papa Doc"), Michael Shannon (Greg Buehl), Eugene Byrd ("Wink"), Evan Jones ("Cheddar Bob"), Omar Benson Miller ("Sol George"), De'Angelo Wilson ("DJ Iz"), Taryn Manning (Janeane), and Proof ("Lil' Tic") Directed by Curtis Hanson.

Review: 
Admittedly, I don't listen to much hip hop or rap music, so I wondered if that would play a role in what I thought of this movie, which was released 15 years ago last month. The idea of a singer playing a version of themselves in their own film isn't a new thing, but 8 Mile manages to be an entertaining and engaging movie. It pulls from familiar elements, but it utilizes those things along with some fine performances in order to make something worthwhile. This happens to be the first and only performance for rapper Eminem as a leading actor, and he does a pretty good job for the climate of the film, which was based on his upbringing (while set in 1995), although the film isn't merely a biopic. He just reels you into caring about his progression throughout the movie and how gritty that road can prove itself to be. Naturally, his singing performance is pretty good as well, with some engaging (and crude but effective) rhymes. One of my favorite scenes is a sequence at his workplace near a lunch truck, where we see rapping from some of the workers, with the last one coming from Eminem, which is pretty amusing, actually. The climax with the rap battles is also pretty good as well, particularly the final one with a good sense of honesty to it.

This is a movie with a raw honesty to it that lends itself to not being a rags-to-riches story nor fall to pandering tactics. The fact that it was filmed mostly on location in Detroit helps give the movie a look that seems authentic and fitting. Sure, the film may be somewhat depressing and bleak at times, but at its heart the film has honesty to drive itself forward. Phifer pulls off a fairly engaging performance as well; the rest of the group of friends that are shown through the film at times (Jones, Benson Miller, Wilson) are pretty interesting standouts as well, giving a bit of levity to the drama that the movie pushes fairly well. Murphy pulls off her role with a sense of vulnerability along with passion that clicks pretty well with Eminem in the time she has on screen. Basinger pulls off a capable performance as well, with the right sense of watchability and care that you'd expect for a movie that is down-to-earth as this one is. The rest of the cast is fairly acceptable as well. The music in the film is pretty decent, and "Lose Yourself" is a key standout that is engaging to listen to. In fact, Eminem won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song, becoming the first hip hop artist to receive the award. In any case, this is a movie that does not allow itself to become too familiar or too easy to pigeon-hole with other musical dramas while being a good piece of entertainment.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

December 11, 2017

Jezebel (1938).


Review #1022: Jezebel.

Cast: 
Bette Davis (Julie Marsden), Henry Fonda (Preston Dillard), George Brent (Buck Cantrell), Donald Crisp (Dr. Livingstone), Fay Bainter (Aunt Belle Massey), Margaret Lindsay (Amy Bradford Dillard), Richard Cromwell (Ted Dillard), Henry O'Neill (General Theopholus Bogardus), Spring Byington (Mrs. Kendrick), John Litel (Jean La Cour), Gordon Oliver (Dick Allen), and Janet Shaw (Molly Allen) Directed by William Wyler (#509 - Roman Holiday)

Review: 
Admittedly, it is hard to talk about the film without comparing it to Gone with the Wind (#569), which was released one year after this movie, which was based off the 1933 play of the same name by Owen Davis. It has been stated that Davis got the role as a sort of a consolation prize for not being awarded the role of Scarlett O'Hara, which went to Vivien Leigh. However, it should also be mentioned that the original actress intended for the role for Jezebel was Tallulah Bankhead, but she fell ill during rehearsals.

In any case, Davis won an Academy Award for Best Actress (her second and final career win) and Banter would win one for Best Supporting Actress for this movie. For the time, Davis' character must have come off as shocking (manipulating people for love and wearing red to a party), but she just comes off as spiteful and not all too compelling, even with her story arc. It should be noted that Davis does pull of a fine performance, though. I will say that her character is mildly compelling to see progress through the movie, but the ending is a bit odd with her motivations, which seems a bit tacked on. The other performances are pretty consistent, and they (along with the production values) help in making for a film that is at the very least dazzling, with Fonda being a fine standout along with Brent and Bainter. The sequence with Davis and Fonda at the ball is a particular highlight in striking tone. The black-and-white photography is fine, but this is a film that probably should've been filmed in color in order to to make the red dress that she notably wears stand out (this is coming from someone who has nothing against black-and-white, of course). The run-time of 103 minutes is fine for the romantic drama that it wants to be, with a few interesting scenes that make it worth it just enough. It doesn't hold too much of a candle to the other more famous film that followed a year later, but if you look past that and try to see the movie for its own worth, you will find it something that is probably worth a look.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

December 7, 2017

The Spider Woman.


Review #1021: The Spider Woman.

Cast: 
Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Dr. John Watson), Gale Sondergaard (Adrea Spedding), Vernon Downing (Norman Locke), Dennis Hoey (Inspector Lestrade), Alec Craig (Radlik), Arthur Hohl (Adam Gilflower), Mary Gordon (Mrs. Hudson), and Teddy Infuhr (Larry) Directed by Roy William Neill (#846 - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, #873 - Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon#925 - Sherlock Holmes in Washington, and #936 - Sherlock Holmes Faces Death)

Review: 
This was the seventh film in the Sherlock Holmes series with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson, respectively, and it happens to be the first one since The Hound of the Baskervilles (#583) to not include Holmes' name on the title, and that would occur for the rest of the film series. This time around, Holmes is investigating a series of suicides that are termed as "pjyama suicides" (as spelled in the film), with the villain being dubbed a "female Moriarty"; this isn't so surprising, seeing how Moriarty was already featured as a villain twice in a three year span. Admittedly, the biggest surprise in the film happens in the first ten minutes: Holmes fakes his death in order to investigate the murders...of course this doesn't really fool the villain all too much by the time they meet (with Holmes in disguise), which makes this seem a bit ridiculous.

Fans of the stories will note the film's incorporation of elements from The Sign of the Four (1890), along with the short stories "The Final Problem", "The Adventure of the Empty House", "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" and "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", so that is certainly interesting. This is an okay movie, but I find it to be not as good as the previous film in the series, mostly because the film feels likes its going through the motions, although it has a standard level of satisfaction. It has a mildly compelling performance from Sondergaard, although her character isn't exactly too menacing. Rathbone and Bruce are both fairly consistent as one would expect; the sequence with Bruce where he tries to out what he believes in Holmes in a disguise (portrayed by Hohl) is a bit ridiculous, especially because it seems obvious that it wasn't him, and it feels less surprising when compared to when he exchanged words with a person that turned out to be Holmes in disguise. The climax of the film, which takes place in a carnival atmosphere with a shooting gallery is pretty unusual, but I do find it to work with the odd nature of the movie, which is at the very least somewhat entertaining. At 62 minutes, it is worth at least some of your time, depending on whether you are in the mood for another story with Sherlock Holmes.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

December 5, 2017

You've Got Mail.


Review #1020: You've Got Mail.

Cast: 
Tom Hanks (Joe "NY152" Fox), Meg Ryan (Kathleen "Shopgirl" Kelly), Parker Posey (Patricia Eden), Jean Stapleton (Birdie Conrad), Greg Kinnear (Frank Navasky), Steve Zahn (George Pappas), Heather Burns (Christina Plutzker), Dave Chappelle (Kevin Jackson), Dabney Coleman (Nelson Fox), and John Randolph (Schuyler Fox) Directed by Nora Ephron (#554 - Sleepless in Seattle)

Review: 
Remember Sleepless in Seattle (1993)? I watched and reviewed the film three years ago, and while I will admit that Hanks and Ryan had a fine enough chemistry with each other, I found it to be fairly okay but not something I'd probably watch again, with a love story that certainly seemed to take inspiration from older films, such as An Affair to Remember (1957). As for this film, the inspiration this time around is the 1937 play Parfumerie by Miklós László, which had already served as the basis for The Shop Around the Corner (1940). Fittingly, the bookstore featured in this film is named after the older film. In any case, this is a movie basked in its time, or more specifically romance on AOL, a thing that I vaguely remember my dad sometime in my childhood (and yes, that noise during the connection and disconnection sequence is still stuck in my head). Ultimately, this is a mediocre movie, although the performances in it are pretty tolerable. Hanks and Ryan are fairly likable, and it is interesting to see their dynamic evolve over the film's run-time, managing to never really drag the film to any sort of ridiculous level (in a movie about online romance, anyway). They help the movie feel charming without soaking itself in sentimentality. The film starts with the two characters involved with other people, and while you know that they are eventually going to not end up happy with those people, the movie doesn't make anyone out to be selfish or needlessly annoying. Posey and Kinnear provide some amusement, and while I'd say they don't have much to their characters, they aren't entirely caricatures. The film goes through the cliches you might expect, but at least there isn't some sort of adversary or big message that the film wants to push other than one of romance, so there's something for you. The rest of the cast is pretty acceptable, contributing to some light fun, with my favorites being Stapleton and Chappelle. For a movie that is light on substance, it is a movie that is inviting for anyone in the mood for a rom-com. Like with Sleepless in Seattle, I can't really see myself watching this film ever again, but I can at least appreciate this film and its romance aspect a bit better than the other film, for what it's worth. It may feel a bit gimmicky, but the basic plot structure still works enough to carve out some sort of winner. This is a predictable film, but it's also comforting for people in the right mood or mindset, and I suppose at the end of the day that means something.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

December 4, 2017

Dudes (1987).


Review #1019: Dudes.

Cast: 
Jon Cryer (Grant), Daniel Roebuck (Biscuit), Catherine Mary Stewart (Jessie), Flea (Milo), Lee Ving (Missoula), Billy Ray Sharkey (Blix), Glenn Withrow (Wes), Michael Melvin (Logan), Marc Rude (Sonny), Pamela Gidley (Elyse), Calvin Bartlett (Witherspoon), and Pete Willcox (Daredelvis) Directed by Penelope Spheeris (#238 - The Little Rascals and #806 - Wayne's World)

Review: 
Admittedly, I didn't really have any expectations for this film. How can one have expectations for a movie involving punk rockers becoming vigilantes that hunt bikers in the Southwest after one of them is killed by the group? Especially one that has not only a metal soundtrack, but also a Daredevil Elvis impersonator and ghostly cowboys? Actually, that sounds pretty interesting in writing, and this is a film that somehow works more often than not. Obviously this is an offbeat kind of movie, complete with aspects of a Western along with adventure and comedy, even with subject matter such as this. Cryer and Roebuck prove to be a decent enough duo together, neither becoming too clownish nor anything too unreal. Stewart is fairly charming, especially when teaching Cryer how to fire a weapon, and Ving proves to be fairly rough but fairly satisfying villain. As mentioned, there is a Daredevil Elvis impersonator (played by Willcox), and I will say that he provides amusement in the brief amount of time he is on screen. At 90 minutes, the movie is never boring, and I can at least say that the movie keeps you watching no matter what happens on screen, for better or for worse. The movie itself really isn't that special, but there is just something about the movie rolls itself together, becoming something that is satisfying in its entertainment while having a useful plot that doesn't veer into hard vigilantism nor hard absurdity. Would I recommend it? If you have a chance to find the film, I suppose that it is worth one watch, preferably late at night, where the odd bits really make an impression in darkness. There is no one real genre to classify this as, but that is likely why this deserves the label of a "cult classic", for better or for worse.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

December 1, 2017

It (1927).


Review #1018: It.

Cast: 
Clara Bow (Betty Lou Spence), Antonio Moreno (Cyrus T. Waltham), William Austin ('Monty' Montgomery), Priscilla Bonner (Molly), Jacqueline Gadsdon (Adela Van Norman), Julia Swayne Gordon (Mrs. Van Norman), and Elinor Glyn (Herself) Directed by Clarence G. Badger.

Review: 
To borrow from what is likely a cliche line, but what is "it"? Well, there can be two explanations. The first one, by Rudyard Kipling in 1904, stated that it was not beauty or good talk, but "just 'It'. Some women will stay in a man's memory if they once walk down the street." If that answer doesn't satisfy you, how about the one by Elinor Glyn, who wrote a two-part serial story in Cosmopolitan magazine, who defines it as "That quality possessed by some which draws all others with its magnetic force. With 'It' you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. 'It' can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction." It should be noted that she was given a "story and adaptation" credit along with a small role in the film. The original story had a male magnetic character, whereas the film changed it to be a woman. In any case, the story itself is featured in a scene where one of the characters reads from the magazine while trying to find out about "it", with a bit of product placement, which was not exactly a common thing at the time.

Honestly, the real reason that I wanted to review this silent film was because of the fact that it has lingered on my to-do list for quite some time, along with 2017 happening to be 90 years since the movie was released. In any case, It is a fairly charming little film, having enough zip and warmth to make for something that is highly entertaining. This was the film that rocketed Bow to stardom, with the label "It girl" soon becoming her nickname while giving her global fame. She just has a certain spark and feel to her that just makes her a fun person to watch on-screen. She just has a zip to her that is magnetic, especially when sharing scenes with Moreno that make the first half of the film pretty entertaining. That's not to say the second half isn't as good, I'm just stating that the movie pulls you in pretty well by its first 30 minutes that make the other 42 minutes go by finely. Moreno does a pretty decent job, and the rest of the cast is fairly nifty and dependable. The titles were written by George Marion, Jr, with the screenplay done by Hope Loring and Louis D. Lighton, and they both serve their purpose well. The film has its moments of sweetness and amusement, doing so with a fair amount of class and determination that certainly makes a clear winner.

Well, look at that. December 1st. Today happens to be my 21st birthday, and I figured it made sense to publish a review for it since I've done a review for that day on four previous years (#292 - Snoopy, Come Home, #493 - The Witches of Eastwick, #759 - The Gold Rush, and #880 - Tillie's Punctured Romance). In any case, welcome to December, folks.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 30, 2017

Space Master X-7.


Review #1017: Space Master X-7.

Cast: 
Bill Williams (John Hand), Lyn Thomas (Laura Greeling), Robert Ellis (Pvt. Joe Rattigan), Paul Frees (Dr. Charles T. Pommer), Rhoda Williams (Stewardess Archer), Joan Barry (Jean Meyers), Carol Varga (Elaine Frohman), Thomas Browne Henry (Prof. West), and Thomas Wilde (Collins) Directed by Edward Bernds.

Review: 
How many science fiction films can one watch before they seem to run all-together? I guess that depends on the level of patience one has for the premise or the time that it was made in. After all, the film (originally known as Missile into Space) was released in June of 1958, four months after Explorer 1 launched. If you're wondering what the monster of the movie is, it turns out to be a fungus that when tinged with human blood, it turns into a pile of "space rust" that grows exponentially while also being spread through human contact. I will admit that this is an interesting premise, although the film is more about the woman that unknowingly is exposed to the fungus while trying to go from Los Angeles to Honolulu, with narration that accompanies her movements while trying to evade the authorities. In that case, it feels more like a detective drama than a sci-fi film, and it doesn't help that there is only one victim during the film. In fact, there is no real villain (like a mad scientist or anything) for the film, aside from the "space rust" of course, so it's a chase movie without too much thrill to it. That's not to say that this is a lifeless movie, but this is likely a movie you could watch right before going to bed late one night, which is a double-edged sword in it of itself. 

The film was made by Regal Films, though it was distributed by 20th Century Fox. The performances of the movie are pretty standard stuff, nothing too riveting or flamboyant, although I will say that Frees (known for his numerous roles involving voices) is one of the more noteworthy parts, serving to deliver the exposition of the fungus. The other noteworthy aspect is an appearance from Moe Howard (best known as one of the Three Stooges) in a rare non-comedic role, appearing as a cab driver (with accompanying hat). His son-in-law, Norman Maurer, ended up designing the special effects of the space fungus due to Howard's help in getting Maurer a position to work on the film, with the ensuing effects costing just $1,000. The effect isn't anything too spectacular, but it gets the job done for what the film wants (and it's admirable to have effects done for a price that wouldn't really be done for films nowadays). On the whole, this is a movie that comes and goes like something you watch to fill the time, not really worthy of any harsh criticism or much attention span. Of note is that the film was released as part of a double bill with The Fly (#710), so I guess if you ever encountered both of the films, you would get at least one good time.  Obviously I wouldn't recommend it, but I guess if you really want a fix of sci-fi and detective drama...then go ahead, I guess.

In any case, tomorrow is a new month. The final one of the year, so hopefully I find some fun things to watch and review for you folks.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

November 29, 2017

Coco (2017).


Review #1016: Coco.

Cast: 
Anthony Gonzalez (Miguel Rivera), Gael García Bernal (Héctor), Benjamin Bratt (Ernesto de la Cruz), Alanna Ubach (Mamá Imelda Rivera), Renée Victor (Abuelita Elena Rivera), Ana Ofelia Murguía (Mamá Coco Rivera), Edward James Olmos (Chicharrón), Alfonso Arau (Papá Julio Rivera), Selene Luna (Tía Rosita Rivera), Dyana Ortellí (Tía Victoria Rivera), Herbert Siguenza (Tío Felipe Rivera and Tío Oscar Rivera), Jaime Camil (Papá Enrique Rivera), Sofía Espinosa (Mamá Luisa Rivera), and Luis Valdez (Tío Berto Rivera) Directed by Lee Unkrich (#074 - Monsters, Inc, #155 - Finding Nemo, #382 - Toy Story 3, and #441 - Toy Story 2) and Adrian Molina.

Review: 
You are likely wondering if there was anything before or after the film. In this case, Olaf's Frozen Adventure, a 21-minute "short" played before the main feature. Long story short, it is a finely animated piece, but I don't see the point of playing this before Coco. Sure, it is a Disney production for a film released by Walt Disney Pictures, but this is something you would see as a television special, not on a big screen. Long story short, it doesn't detract from Coco, but it isn't really anything you absolutely need to see, unless of course you're a huge fan of Frozen. Hopefully you enjoy the following review.

I will admit that I had a fair amount of expectations from this film, likely because Pixar does have a fair (but not perfect) record with their movies, but also because it seemed particularly interesting. Admittedly, there are likely some comparisons that could be made to The Book of Life (2014), but there isn't much point in doing so in my view seeing as I hadn't seen the other film before this (one can likely search the web all they want for the comparisons they desire). In any case, Coco is a wonderful movie, achieving a great look with tremendous animation and a riveting story and cast of characters that surely makes for great entertainment for all audiences. Gonzalez does a fine job as the lead, never approaching the lines of annoyance or unlikeability, while also making his character fairly interesting to follow for the film, and he also does a fairly decent jobs for times when he sings as well. Bernal does a pretty commendable job, having some fine moments of amusements, but he also proves to be an interesting character to follow as well, with him and Gonzalez having pretty good chemistry together. Bratt is enjoyable to watch as well, having a fine amount of charisma that certainly seems believable. The rest of the cast is also fairly pretty good at their roles, each having at least one good moment throughout the film, most of the time having a pretty good effect. The animation is wonderful to watch, having a dazzling colorful effect at times that shows a good deal of creativity and imagination while not distracting one from the story itself. The movie has a fairly cohesive narrative that sticks well enough while also making sure to cover its bases splendidly. Although it has its amusing moments, the movie does manage to create some emotion without feeling fabricated nor overly sentimental. At 110 minutes, it feels like the right kind of run-time for a film like this, although some could find it to be a bit dragged in the beginning, but I'd say that the film is never boring on any level, whether on the eyes or for what the film wants to be about, saying some fairly interesting things about culture and family along with other things that should be watched and not spoiled in a review. This is an easy film for me to recommend because of the elements that make this a clear winner, from its animation to its heart.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

November 28, 2017

Bardelys the Magnificent.


Review #1015: Bardelys the Magnificent.

Cast: 
John Gilbert (Bardelys), Eleanor Boardman (Roxalanne de Lavedan), Roy D'Arcy (Châtellerault), Lionel Belmore (Vicomte de Lavedan), Emily Fitzroy (Vicomtesse de Lavedan), George K. Arthur (Sainte-Eustache), Arthur Lubin (King Louis XIII), Theodore von Eltz (Lesperon), and Karl Dane (Rodenard) Directed by King Vidor (#987 - Show People)

Review: 
Based on the same novel of the same name by Rafael Sabatini, this is a light-hearted romantic movie that manages to be fairly riveting entertainment. It isn't a great grand classic kind of silent film, but it is at the very least fairly memorable, with some of that credit going to main actor John Gilbert. He comes off as fairly charming along with appealing to watch on screen, having an appeal that keeps the movie on its heels because of how he is, particularly with the climax. Boardman is fairly decent and appealing to watch, with the sequence between the two on a boat ride being particularly noteworthy. D'Arcy is an effective villain, having the smarmy and tricky expressions needed for the role, being a capable villain in his own right. The rest of the cast is also fairly acceptable. For those wanting to know more about the sequence, Vidor stated in his autobiography that the camera was mounted in the bow of the rowboat, with gliding along a corridor of willow branches that passed over the camera lens across the two actors. The inter-titles by Dorothy Farnum are also pretty effective, having some wit along with fitting the movie pretty well.

If you like silent films, this one is a fairly acceptable one to watch, with this one only recently becoming more known. After the movie had been made, the rights to the novel belonged to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) for ten years. After the rights had expired, they destroyed the negative along with any known prints of the film, and it was believed to have been lost, with only the trailer and a brief part that had been shown in Show People (1928) surviving. In 2006, a print of the movie was found in France, with all but one reel surviving. A restoration was done using stills from the production and footage from the trailer as stand-ins for the missing parts, with a release onto the markets following two years later. Ultimately, this is a movie with a fine amount of production value along with a fine pace (with a run-time of 90 minutes) that surely makes it a useful watch for audiences looking for something usefully interesting.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 27, 2017

The Dirty Dozen.


Review #1014: The Dirty Dozen.

Cast: 
Lee Marvin (Maj. John Reisman), Ernest Borgnine (Maj. Gen. Sam Worden), Charles Bronson (Joseph Wladislaw), Jim Brown (Robert T. Jefferson), John Cassavetes (Victor R. Franko), Richard Jaeckel (Sgt. Clyde Bowren), George Kennedy (Maj. Max Armbruster), Trini Lopez (Pedro Jiminez), Ralph Meeker (Capt. Stuart Kinder), Robert Ryan (Col. Everett Dasher Breed), Telly Savalas (Archer J. Maggott), Donald Sutherland (Vernon L. Pinkley), Clint Walker (Samson Posey), Robert Webber (Brig. Gen. James Denton), Tom Busby (Milo Vladek), Ben Carruthers (S. Glenn Gilpin), Stuart Cooper (Roscoe Lever), Robert Phillips (Cpl. Morgan), Colin Maitland (Seth K. Sawyer), and Al Mancini (Tassos R. Bravos) Directed by Robert Aldrich (#105 - What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and #778 - The Longest Yard)

Review: 
Admittedly, war films are not exactly my preference when it comes to what I try to watch for films, but from time to time there can be ones that pique my interest, and this is certainly one that garnered a look. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by E. M. Nathanson, which was inspired by a real-life group called the "Filthy Thirteen". The film has a big cast (as the title suggests) along with a considerable length of 150 minutes, not so much due to the action but the training of the group, although the last parts of the film contains plenty of action. It is evident to say that of the twelve members, six stand out the clearest: Bronson, Brown, Cassavetes, Savalas, Sutherland, and Walker. They have distinct characteristics that they apply well to their roles that just clicks. Marvin is fairly entertaining, having a great sense of gravitas, which could also apply to Borgnine. My favorites of the group are Brown and Sutherland, the former due to him being easily watchable and the latter due to his charm. The film has its share of amusing moments along with its scenes of fellowship with these hard-edged (but watchable) people. I especially like the sequence with Marvin and Sutherland in which the latter has to help fool a general. The war game part is also fairly commendable in its execution as well. Admittedly, the cast is perhaps a bit old to be playing soldiers (the youngest of the group is Cooper and Maitland, both born in 1942 for a film released in 1967), but it isn't too much of a detraction. It's not a movie that relies heavily on a big spectacle action scene, in part because the film isn't meant to be like that. The last sequence (with the château) is a fairly thrilling sequence, but it is one that you can also dwell on due to the characters that we have watched prior to that point. It's a gritty movie that has its shares of bleakness, but it is a well-paced and well thought-out film. Whether the film achieves its goals or not, it is at the very least a fine piece of entertainment.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 22, 2017

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?


Review #1013: The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?

Cast: 
Ray Dennis Steckler (Jerry), Carolyn Brandt (Marge Neilson), Brett O'Hara (Madame Estrella), Atlas King (Harold), Sharon Walsh (Angela), Pat Kirkwood (Madison), Erina Enyo (Carmelita), Toni Camel (Stella), Joan Howard (Angela's Mother), Neil Stillman (Barker), William Turner (Himself), Gene Pollock (Night Club Manager), and James Bowie (Night Club Comedian) Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler.

Review: 
The film was billed as the first "monster musical", and included in the film is numerous song-and-dance production numbers (such as "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" and "Shook out of Shape"). The intended title was The Incredibly Strange Creatures, or Why I Stopped Living and Became a Mixed-up Zombie, but it was changed after a threat of a lawsuit over its similarity to the name of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, which was in production at the time (with this film being released less than half of a month after the other film's release by Columbia Pictures). In any case, the title is usually shortened to The Incredibly Strange Creatures (without the exclamation points or question mark), though I utilize the full title for this review because of the sheer absurdity of doing this film to begin with. The film, shot for $38,000, was filmed in a long-empty Mason temple in Glendale, California that was owned by Rock Hudson. It has a series of "sound stages" that were stacked floor after floor, with some of them being large enough to have the midway scenes be filmed indoors. The carnival sequences were shot at The Pike, an amusement park on the beach in Long Beach, California that ran from 1930 to 1968 (with The Cyclone Racer being featured in the film). For those who are wondering, the zombies in the film are actually people hypnotized, represented by a spinning black wheel with a white spiral on it, which is actually pretty amusing to look at.

For a movie with numerous production quirks, the performances of the people in them could be called ridiculous (along with amateur), though that is not much of a surprise. Steckler (credited as "Cash Flagg", which I did not make up) is the main star, and the best thing that I can say is that he does marginally better than the director/star in a terrible movie, Hal Warren from Manos: The Hands of Fate (#350). Watching these characters interact with each other reminds me of sandpaper, with the carnival sequences, although slightly more alluring, is only slightly better, and I use that word with the statement that nothing in this film is "good". However, one can say it has some sort of appeal even in its terribleness, because if people didn't watch movies as dreadful as this, how can one see where film goes from something awful to something laughable? I can't say it's a stupid movie, mainly because I believe that there was some sort of intelligence or common sense when making this film, with the result turning out to be horrendous. The effects reflect the budget, for better or for worse. What kind of rating is "suitable" for the movie? Is it a film that is so awful that it's on the same level as Monster A-Go-Go (#756)? Or is it on the level of Zaat (#823)? Or is it on the level of Billy the Kid vs Dracula (#463)? Would I even recommend it? My response is that if you want some trash, then go ahead.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

Overall, I give it 1 out of 10 stars.

November 20, 2017

The Invisible Boy.


Review #1012: The Invisible Boy.

Cast: 
Richard Eyer (Timmie Merrinoe), Philip Abbott (Dr. Tom Merrinoe), Diane Brewster (Mary Merrinoe), Harold J. Stone (Gen. Swayne), Robert H. Harris (Prof. Frank Allerton), Dennis McCarthy (Col. Macklin), Alexander Lockwood (Arthur Kelvaney), John O'Malley (Prof. Baine), Robby the Robot (Robby), Gage Clarke (Dr. Bannerman) Directed by Herman Hoffman.

Review: 
Based on the short story by Edmund Cooper, The Invisible Boy is certainly an interesting science fiction film that has both wit and charm at times, being a strange little adventure that certainly wins over on its charm. It was the second appearance of Robby the Robot, who had previously appeared in Forbidden Planet (#199), with his character having been brought back from the future during a time travel experiment (not joking). Yes, the film has its tongue-in-cheek moments, but it is also a film that has scenes involving a supercomputer that goes berserk with power (which for the era was a pretty new thing) and then of course there is parts with the invisible boy. Eyer does an okay performance, though it may come off as a bit bratty, and he certainly isn't as interesting as Robby, although who can really say they are more interesting to watch on screen than him? In a film as oddly plotted and as oddly thought out, the Robot is one of the best parts of the film in part because of how interesting it is to watch the Robot move around, especially with that voice, which was delivered by Marvin Miller, although he was not given credit for the role. The parents (Abbott and Brewster) are decent, and they seem to be having a decent time. The rest of the supporting cast is nothing too special, but at least they serve their purposes well, whether it be for the plot or for some amusement. Made for a budget of $384,000, it certainly is a movie that has some cheap-looking moments, but the invisible effects are at least somewhat passable; aside from that, the biggest spectacle is the robot and the supercomputer, with the latter being somewhat amusing. While the film isn't anything too special, it has a strange charm to it because of amusingly entertaining it can get to with the narrative. At best, it is neat entertainment and even at its worst it serves as mostly harmless fare. Take it for what it's worth.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

November 18, 2017

Justice League.


Review #1011: Justice League.

Cast: 
Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne / Batman), Henry Cavill (Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince / Wonder Woman), Ezra Miller (Barry Allen / Flash), Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry / Aquaman), Ray Fisher (Victor Stone / Cyborg), Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth), Diane Lane (Martha Kent), Connie Nielsen (Hippolyta), J. K. Simmons (James Gordon), and Ciarán Hinds (Steppenwolf) Directed by Zack Synder (#788 - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

Review: 
To fellow readers: I did not intend for this review to be over 700 words, but here we are. Hopefully this review is consistent enough and useful for you.

Admittedly, the DC comic book films over the past few years have a been a bit...diverse (#788 - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice#828 - Suicide Squad, #942 - Wonder Woman), with their own particular brand of taste and style (and that is putting it lightly). This remains the case with this film, which is certainly a strange movie for one that is also wildly mediocre. Sure, I enjoyed the movie, but it is easily one that won't go down as anything great (in fairness, it's not like Thor: Ragnarok will go down as a hallmark of comic book films). It's clear that this movie wants to be lighter and fun, with varying results that come off as slightly inconsistent, particularly with characters like Batman, though that is not the biggest flaw. In any case, let me start with the main six, which is certainly an interesting bunch.

Affleck pulls off a pretty decent performance, being somewhat endearing even if seems like the character shifts tone from stoic to snarky, though it isn't too awfully distracting. Gadot is the best one of the group, being quite enjoyable and graceful as she was in her prior film. Miller is fairly entertaining in the film and is likely the most amusing part of the film. Momoa is fairly decent, though I'd say it takes time for him to really grow on you. Fisher is probably the weakest of the six, feeling a bit flat (though his character is at least useful to the plot). Cavill (with accompanying CGI-erased mustache) is decent enough for the time that he appears, but he doesn't really appear as much as he probably should've appeared. The supporting cast aren't really given much to do, and that can prove to be a bit disappointing (even in a movie all about the main six). It's not so much that Hinds does a terrible job as the villain as it is the fact that his character just isn't compelling to watch. with this being the worst part of the film. He is not a character that ever inspires fear or anything other than a mild expression, with his scenes with dialogue or fighting reminding me more of cut-scenes than actual scenes. Naturally, he is a villain that doesn't take too long to take down, with the victory feeling somewhat hollow that actually feels amusing to laugh at. The action sequences prove to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, they are sometimes pretty entertaining in their spectacle. On the other hand, the CGI just doesn't hold up that well, and for a movie that was reportedly made for over $300 million it certainly seems puzzling to see how it doesn't really work in the department. The film is at least sometimes amusing, and the cast does seem to have some good chemistry with each other, although at times it can come off a bit rushed, which can also apply in some way to the plot, which isn't too special, especially when it seems to go all over the place with its characters.

The film certainly feels a bit jumbled, no doubt due to post-production efforts in which Josh Whedon  (director of #312 - The Avengers and #706 - Avengers: Age of Ultron) was hired to rewrite additional scenes. In May of this year, Snyder stepped down during this process due to the death of his daughter, with Whedon taking over for rest of post-production, serving as director for scenes that he had written. In any case, Snyder is listed as the only director, though Whedon is given a credit for the screenplay (along with Chris Terrio, who had also co-written the story with Synder). The film certainly feels like a jumbling of numerous things, trying to give time for the three characters without their own film (Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg). Subsequently, the film feels rushed when trying to deliver exposition for them.

Ultimately, this is a movie that achieves its most basic goals of being escapism and entertainment. It is ridiculous in how okay it is, but I found it to be fairly acceptable, warts and all. It isn't anything worthwhile, but it's a movie that will prove just enough for some audiences. Take this film for what it's worth.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

November 17, 2017

Moon.


Review #1010: Moon.

Cast: 
Sam Rockwell (Sam Bell), Kevin Spacey (GERTY), Dominique McElligott (Tess Bell), Kaya Scodelario (Eve Bell), Benedict Wong (Thompson), Matt Berry (Overmeyers), and Malcolm Stewart (The Technician) Directed by Duncan Jones.

Review: 
In terms of science fiction, the genre is certainly interesting for how diverse and how thought provoking it can be with its use of imaginative and futuristic concepts. It's clear that Moon wants to be like some of the classic sci-fi films, such as Silent Running (#091) or 2001: A Space Odyssey (#093), with its own touch of humanity and intelligence. Made on a budget of $5 million, this is an efficient movie that showcases its ideas and never looks off for the most part. Rockwell is the only actor physically on-screen, and he certainly takes good advantage of that, having a fairly outstanding time with this role. If you don't find him to be all that effective to root for or care about, you likely won't have much of a good time with the film, and I will admit that it took me a while to get into the film fully, but it earns its moments with Rockwell fairly well. Spacey does a fine job with this sentient computer role, being slightly creepy but also effective.

I can't really delve into the plot details too much, because doing so would spoil the mystery and fun of seeing it for oneself, but I will say that it is interesting to watch unfold on screen, having a fine pace that certainly rolls itself coherently for my taste. I will admit that the scenes with the hallucinations are a bit odd, mainly because I feel that they don't really go that well with the rest of the plot, feeling a bit out-of-place with what the film wants to be. At 97 minutes, it is fairly paced, with some suspense that does take its time but ultimately feels worthy. The miniature model work is pretty good, having a look and feel that works while having a nice-looking quality to it that fits well with the movie. On the whole, this is a very well made movie, utilizing its human elements and fine movie-making by Jones in his directorial debut that works more often than not in being good science fiction that simply lets you wonder.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 15, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok.


Review #1009: Thor: Ragnarok.

Cast: 
Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cate Blanchett (Hela), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Jeff Goldblum (Grandmaster), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Karl Urban (Skurge), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner / Hulk), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Taika Waititi (Korg), Rachel House (Topaz), Clancy Brown (Surtur) Directed by Taika Waititi.

Review: 
It is interesting to see how one will be able to compare this film to the previous two installments, Thor (#041) and Thor: The Dark World (#827), along with how it compares to the other two Marvel films released this year, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (#932) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (#966). In a way, this is a film that wins and loses with regard to comparison. On the one hand, it is likely the lesser of the three Marvel films for this year, but on the other hand, it is likely the best Thor film yet. Hemsworth had already shined in the previous two films (along with appearances that he made in other Marvel films), but he does a tremendous job this time around, having a fun flair that is energetic along with entertaining. Hiddleston also does a pretty good job once again, having a mischievous but also fairly compelling, and his scenes with Hemsworth are entertaining. Blanchett does a fair job as the villain, having a few moments where she seems menacing, though I wouldn't say it is really too memorable or great. Goldblum, on the other hand, is pretty maniacal but also pretty entertaining for such a strange role, and he takes full advantage of it that works pretty well. Elba and Thompson are fine, with Hopkins and Cumberbatch doing well in the time that they appear on screen and Ruffalo being decent as well. The end credit scenes are fairly nifty as usual.

The film certainly tries to play itself for more of a comedic angle this time around, and on some level it works but it also can seem a bit overplayed and distracting, depending on the kind of mood or tone you're looking for. It feels more earned for something like the Guardians of the Galaxy films than it does for this film, but I will say that this film at least does shine with some amusement, with Hemsworth and Ruffalo's scenes being pretty good examples of that. At 130 minutes, it seems to have a fairly coherent pace, and while the film may not work for everyone, it certainly had enough to win me over with the fun that it has.

And with that, this ends the 117th review of Movie Night for the year of 2017. It isn't exactly an accomplishment, but this review means that there are more reviews published than there were last year in total (116). In any case, it's good to see some sort of productivity from myself (heck, there were only 90 reviews in 2015), so here's to productivity and more reviews in the future.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 14, 2017

The Racket (1951).


Review #1008: The Racket.

Cast: 
Robert Mitchum (Captain Thomas McQuigg), Lizabeth Scott (Irene Hayes), Robert Ryan (Nick Scanlon), William Talman (Officer Bob Johnson), Ray Collins (District Attorney Mortimer X. Welch), Joyce MacKenzie (Mary McQuigg), Robert Hutton (Dave Ames), Virginia Huston (Lucy Johnson), and William Conrad (Detective Sergeant Turk) Directed by John Cromwell.

Review: 
When I reviewed the original 1928 version of The Racket (#901), I described it as an efficient film that ran at a fine pace that pushed the right buttons and served its purpose as a crime drama that had originally served as a stage play the previous year. In any case, it is interesting reviewing the remake that was made just two decades later, with the man who had starred as McQuigg in the original Broadway production serving as director. In any case, this is a movie that isn't much of an improvement on the original, though it is also a movie that is at best moderately satisfying to the standard of film noir crime drama that you might expect. The best thing about the movie is the scenes involving Mitchum and Ryan, such as their first scene together, when the latter ends up having to deal with his brother's involvement with a singer and an ensuing conversation about his care for him - along with dialogue about how the other will try to pull one over the other. There isn't much going for the film that you could already see in other gangster films (or even the original version), and the characters themselves aren't really all too interesting. Sure, Mitchum and Ryan pull off fine performances, and the rest of the cast are fairly decent, but they can't really elevate these characters to anything too special or compelling, although Conrad is certainly interesting to watch even when in the background. It seems to hint at something more with the corruption element, but it never really comes off as anything too revealing nor does it seem like it wants to say something more relevant than what you might expect. Oddly, though Cromwell is the only credited director, four other directors directed supplemental scenes in the film due to re-shoots ordered by Howard Hughes (owner of the studio that released the film, RKO Radio Pictures): Nicholas Ray (director of Rebel Without a Cause (#181) and Bigger Than Life (#928), Tay Garnett (director of films such as the 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice), Sherman Todd (who also served as editor of the film) and Mel Ferrer (actor/director). Notable scenes that Ray directed include the beginning scene with the the Crime Commission, a police locker sequence, and other bits and pieces.

At 88 minutes, it's not exactly a slog of a film to go through, and it is a movie that is on a basic level entertaining, but it's really hard to recommend this film over other films (The Big Combo (#934), He Walked by Night (#947), or the 1928 original). On a grading scale, this would fall along a C level, but I can't blame someone for finding it useful to watch at least once. It's a mess, but it is a fine mess that shines in all sorts of directions for everyone, for better or for worse, being a pretty good example of a toss-up.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

November 9, 2017

Attack of the Crab Monsters.


Review #1007: Attack of the Crab Monsters.

Cast: 
Richard Garland (Dale Drewer), Pamela Duncan (Martha Hunter), Russell Johnson (Hank Chapman), Leslie Bradley (Dr. Karl Weigand), Mel Welles (Jules Deveroux), Richard H. Cutting (Dr. James Carson), Beach Dickerson (Seaman Ron Fellows), Tony Miller (Seaman Jack Sommers), and David Arvedon (voice of Hoolar the Giant Crab) Directed by Roger Corman (#368 - The Little Shop of Horrors, #684 - It Conquered the World, #852 - The Terror, and #931 - Not of This Earth)

Review: 
Giant radiation-mutated (and telepathic) crab monsters. What's there to say with a premise like that? Quite a bit, actually, although not much of it would be about the scientific accuracy of such a thing, because that spoils the fun in a movie that strives for entertainment and succeeds for the most part. This is a sci-fi horror film (released by Allied Artists) that also has injections of humor during the film, but the real star of the show is never too far behind, with action and suspense occurring at a fairly decent rate. The crabs themselves are pretty...ugly, but what does one expect other than what you get? They don't look too shabby, at least. The acting as a whole is fairly acceptable, nothing that would garner any sort of awards but also not something that would garner too much derision. It has the kind of characters you would expect, albeit with a voice of the giant crab that randomly pops up from time to time that is sometimes chilling but also sometimes ridiculous (if one thought about it too much anyway). This was made for around $70,000, with the film proving itself to be a big success that reportedly made around a million dollars, and it's not really hard to see why. It has an interesting title that it mostly lives up to while also being something you'd watch in a drive-in with company (or alternatively on the Internet on a lark). Unsurprisingly, the film has a run-time of 62 minutes, so that can make this seem like a fair breeze. It was released as part of a double bill with Not of This Earth, and while I will say they both fall under the same kind of quality, the former may be just a bit better, though they both could easily be fine films to watch for anyone looking for some good ol' ridiculous fun.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

November 8, 2017

Fantastic Planet.


Review #1006: Fantastic Planet.

Cast: 
Jean Valmont (Terr), Eric Baugin (young Terr), Jennifer Drake (Tiwa), Jean Topart (Master Sinh), and Gérard Hernandez (Master Taj) Directed by René Laloux.

Review: 
Sorry for the wait for the past few reviews. It has been a while since I touched upon a film that falls under the world cinema label, particularly since this is the first review of a film from the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993), with this being a co-production with France, which I haven't covered since the Three Colors trilogy (#601#602#603) back in 2014. In any case, enjoy the review.

The film (known in France as La Planète sauvage and Divoká planeta in Czech) is certainly an interesting piece of cinema, seeing as it was a co-production between companies from France and Czechoslovakia that was in production for roughly six years, with it being based off the novel Oms en série by Stefan Wul. It was the winner of the Grand Prix special jury prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival. In terms of animation and science fiction, this is certainly a film that stands out among others in its genre, being a unique and strange experience that certainly has more to say than it may first let on. It won't exactly fall as one of my favorite films in either genre, but it will definitely fall as one of those films that certainly deserve a curious look. It's a surreal piece of work, but it is a curious fantastical piece that certainly sticks out with its animation, which was hand-drawn while having stop motion cutouts that gives the movie an alien feel, with a rigid but focused sense of space and medium that contrasts with something that you might see in a Disney film. There is just something alive about how this alien world comes off that just makes the film shine, whether one is watching the film intently or not. There isn't much to the voice acting, though Valmont is certainly acceptable as the narrator, with the other voices fitting the alien nature fine enough. There isn't too much to the character themselves, but the story that it tells (and however one interprets it) make it worthwhile to sit through. At 71 minutes, the film isn't too hard of a sit-through, though it will certainly play better for others depending on what they are looking for in an animated film or in science fiction. It isn't exactly anything too great for me, but I can definitely find why someone else would really enjoy the film's vision, or in contrast find the film to be muddled in itself. I myself found it to be pretty good, mainly because of it having a fairly good grasp of what it aims for and having the visuals to back it up, for the most part.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

November 4, 2017

Annie Hall.


Review #1005: Annie Hall.

Cast: 
Woody Allen (Alvy "Max" Singer), Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Tony Roberts (Rob), Carol Kane (Allison Portchnik), Paul Simon (Tony Lacey), Janet Margolin (Robin), Shelley Duvall (Pam), Christopher Walken (Duane Hall), Colleen Dewhurst (Mrs. Hall), and Donald Symington (Mr. Hall) Directed by Woody Allen.

Review: 
Let's get this out of the way, the film was the winner of four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director (Woody Allen), Actress (Keaton) and Original Screenplay (Allen and Marshall Brickman) Whether one finds the film to be deserving of its accolades or not, it's evident to see the amount of love the film received (and still receives) from audiences. For me, the turnout was almost exactly what I thought it would be: it was a good movie, but I didn't exactly find it to be anything too greatly special. I can at least appreciate it during its amusing moments. I will state that it does have some interesting techniques (such as split-screen), and it definitely is a film worth watching at least once, whether one is a fan of Allen or not (I fall into the category of "un-experienced"). The highlight of the movie turns out to be Keaton and her performance, mainly because of how charming and effective she proves herself to be, like when she sings, and she has interesting chemistry with Allen at times, which can be amusing.

It's a bit hard for me to say my thoughts on Allen's performance in the film, seeing how he also wrote and directed the film as well. On the one hand, the film is capably directed and fairly constructed. On the other hand, his character (full of neurosis and eccentric quirks) can prove grating at times, particularly if you don't have patience. I just couldn't get into (or care) about this character and his characteristics, but at least I can say that the basic story about love and memory is interesting enough that he doesn't completely make this insufferable. Others may find him or the film easier to relate to, but I can't really embrace what the film goes for, like how a Texan can't simply just be a fan of things from New York (or vice versa). This is likely a film that would work best on a second (or third) watch, but I can't really bring myself to do that as much as I probably would do for other films. That's not to say that it is unwatchable, it's just not something I think I'll find myself wanting to look over again and again (though if you do find yourself doing that, I don't blame you). Roberts is fairly interesting, and the rest of the cast (including one scene appearances from Duvall and Walken) serve their purpose well, with one notable cameo from Marshall McLuhan being somewhat amusing. By the time the film ends, there is some sort of satisfaction in having seen how the film plays itself out through its 93 minute run-time and how it works pretty well as a romantic comedy that isn't too boring or too sappy. Simply put, this is a film that I expected to be just fine, and I got what I wanted, for the most part. Take the film for what it is, and you'll probably get something out of it.

If you didn't already know, my Houston Astros won the World Series a few days ago. As a native Texan, it is a joy to say those words at long last. This was a great (if not stressful) World Series that had two great teams that pushed the boundaries of sanity in terms of fun. In the end, it was all worth it, and I finally get to see the World Series title come to Texas.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

October 31, 2017

Equinox.


Review #1004: Equinox.

Cast: 
Edward Connell (David Fielding), Barbara Hewitt (Susan Turner), Frank Bonner (Jim Hudson), Robin Christopher (Vicki), Jack Woods (Asmodeus), Fritz Leiber (Dr. Arthur Waterman), James Philips (Reporter Sloan), Patrick Burke (Branson), Jim Duron (Orderly and Green Giant), Norvelle Brooks (Detective Harrison), and Irving L. Lichtenstein (Old Man) Directed by Jack Woods and Dennis Muren.

Review: 
Equinox is certainly an intriguing standout, in that not only was it made for a budget of $6,500, it featured stop-motion effects and cel animation, with Dennis Muren (eight time winner of the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects) providing (along with David W. Allen and Jim Danforth) the effects that make what would've been just an ultra low-budget movie stick out among other horror "midnight movie" flicks. The film (known as The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural) was originally a short film made over the span of over two years by Muren, Allen and Danforth that the former made while attending college, with the result being liked enough by Tonylyn Productions to distribute it. Jack Woods was hired to direct additional footage by producer Jack H. Harris (producer of #418 - The Blob) in order to make it feature-length, with the final run-time being 80 minutes long, which certainly seems efficient.

The main four characters aren't really anything you wouldn't see in in a monster film, although they are at least somewhat competent.  Woods does a decent job in a role as odd as the one he plays, which is certainly strange. Famed fantasy and horror writer Fritz Leiber appears in the film in a brief but crucial role, despite having no spoken lines. Famed magazine editor and literary agent Forrest J Ackerman also appears in the film as one of the voices heard on the tape recorder in the film. Neither have starring roles, but it is interesting to note their appearances due to their roles in literature and fandom. As for the main four, they do relatively decent jobs, but the real star of the show is the special effects, which are fairly impressive for the time. There's just something about how they move and how they gel with the human actors to make this is an interesting watch. The plot is certainly a bit erratic (along with odd to follow at times), but it keeps itself going on the basis of its energetic spirit. The film gets more interesting (along with more odd) in the second half, but it is worth it due to the effects along with a fairly cohesive horror setup, with a climax that while weird is certainly fitting for something like this. It isn't a classic, but it is at the very least an interesting curiosity that merits at least one watch.

Happy Halloween folks.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

October 25, 2017

Child's Play (1988).


Review #1003: Child's Play.

Cast: 
Alex Vincent (Andy Barclay), Catherine Hicks (Karen Barclay), Chris Sarandon (Detective Mike Norris), Brad Dourif (Charles Lee Ray/voice of Chucky), Dinah Manoff (Maggie Peterson), Tommy Swerdlow (Jack Santos), Jack Colvin (Dr. Ardmore), Raymond Oliver (John Bishop), and Neil Giuntoli (Eddie Caputo) Directed by Tom Holland (#614 - Thinner)

Review: 
I will admit, it took longer to finally cover one of these films than I thought it would, especially since Chucky is a character that is still appearing in films (with the seventh installment coming out just this month), and it is interesting to watch a horror film about a killer doll, though whether this is actually a scary slasher film is up to you. For me, I thought it was a decent movie, with Dourif (along with the animatronics used for Chucky) being the key highlight. Vincent does an decent job (for a child actor), and Hicks is fairly acceptable as well, but my level of entertainment were with Chucky. It's not so much that he is terrifying as it is that it's an interesting villain for a slasher film because of how clever the doll seems (my question though: would there have been any effect on Chucky if they had put batteries in the doll?). The film takes its time before letting Chucky "reveal himself", and whether that comes off as tedious or somewhat clever is up to you, although it really shouldn't be surprising to current viewers, anyway. The voodoo parts are what they are: stuff to explain the story, and I suppose they work well enough.

If I had to compare this to anything, I'd probably compare it to The Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll" (1963) which had a sentient doll, although that one was a bit more suspenseful though this is a fairly capable thriller. The film works best in its second half with Dourif being fairly entertaining and quite resourceful (for a doll, anyway). His voice just fits well (especially considering the actual voice of the doll) with this role. At 87 minutes, this is fairly decent horror fare, and if you find yourself into the concept and wanting more there are more than enough follow-up films for your taste.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

October 23, 2017

Willard (1971).


Review #1002: Willard.

Cast: 
Bruce Davison (Willard Stiles), Sondra Locke (Joan), Elsa Lanchester (Henrietta Stiles), Ernest Borgnine (Al Martin), Michael Dante (Brandt), and J. Pat O'Malley (Farley) Directed by Daniel Mann (#514 - Our Man Flint)

Review: 
When it comes to horror films, Willard is certainly a interestingly strange one. I've done films with killer animals before (such as #462 - Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), #480 - Jaws (1975), #823 - Zaat (1971)), but here's one with killer rats...although they don't exactly do too much killing. Whether that is actually a positive or a negative is up to you, but I found this to be such an average movie (based off a short novel named Ratman's Notebooks (1969) by Stephen Gilbert) that it really didn't matter all too much. The real horror seems to be the human characters and how they act to each other, which actually makes me laugh a bit, mostly because you're supposed to feel for this main character (who just happens to like rats), but I found him to be occasionally annoying (the same could sometimes be said for Lanchester's character, although she is fine). Davison does a decent job with the material he is given with, although I can't really find myself caring too much (this can apply to Locke's character as well). Somehow, Borgnine is my favorite from this film, probably because his maverick demeanor is somewhat amusing. If you are wondering how the special effects are...it's about what you'd expect with rats tearing someone apart. I don't particularly care for rats myself, but I'm not exactly afraid of them. The length of 95 minutes is fairly tolerable, although one has to slog through a first half that sometimes can feel slow, though its second half is at least somewhat serviceable. The climax of the film is likely the best part of the film, for better or for worse, but I can't really convince myself that this movie is anything but just an average b-movie. That's not to say that I am not a fan of what the film was going for (or that I don't like b-movies), but I just can't find myself saying that is really any better than a film like Kingdom of the Spiders. As a whole, this is a mediocre film that inspires a few more laughs than frights/thrills, but it is a somewhat serviceable film for people in the right state of mind.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

October 21, 2017

Money Talks.



Review #1001: Money Talks.

Cast: 
Chris Tucker (Franklin Maurice Hatchett), Charlie Sheen (James Russell), Gerard Ismael (Raymond Villard), Heather Locklear (Grace Cipriani), Elise Neal (Paula), Michael Wright (Aaron), Paul Sorvino (Tony Cipriani), Larry Hankin (Roland), and Paul Gleason (Det. Bobby Pickett) Directed by Brett Ratner (#012 - X-Men: The Last Stand, #305 - Rush Hour, #306 - Rush Hour 2, #402 - Rush Hour 3)

Review: 
It is not so much that this movie is not good as it is that it is not worth giving extensive criticism to. Does one really need over 500 words to express how this is just a film I didn't care much for? In the four films that Ratner and Tucker have teamed up together for (with this being their first), I found only one of them (Rush Hour) to actually be satisfyingly entertaining enough, and that was because the duo of Tucker and Jackie Chan actually worked out quite well (the same can't be said for the sequels).

In this case, Tucker is paired with Sheen, who can be a decent actor when in a coherent comedy (and occasional drama), but they simply aren't an effective duo together. Sure, you could make the case that they aren't supposed to be like other buddy duos (after all, one is a reporter while the other is a hustler), but I never really found myself wanting to care about what goes on with these two. Tucker (and his shtick) is tolerable to a point, with some likely having more (or less) patience with him and his lines. He falls along the middle for me, but that's not really much of a compliment. He certainly is more interesting than Sheen, who doesn't really have much to do. The villain (Ismael) is fairly generic; the only other interesting supporting character is Sorvino, who seems right at home in this role somehow. Simply put, this is a movie without much fire in it. Why should I care about their attempt to get to sweeps week? Why should I care about the valuable diamonds? Or the random twist involving a minor character at the end? If you have read some of the reviews on this show, you know that I do not try to over-think things in a film or overtly go critical on a film, because what purpose does that serve to you? This is a movie that would likely be easy bait for someone wanting to get irritated while not striving for anything other than just being a piece of entertainment. It's not a movie to use as an example of lazy filmmaking nor is it something worth fawning nostalgic over (even after 20 years), but it's a film that is what it is. I can't say this is an awful movie, and I also can't say I blame someone if they like (or at least tolerate) the film. Take that for what it's worth.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

October 19, 2017

The Last Picture Show.


Review #1000: The Last Picture Show.

Cast: 
Timothy Bottoms (Sonny Crawford), Jeff Bridges (Duane Jackson), Cybill Shepherd (Jacy Farrow), Ben Johnson (Sam the Lion), Cloris Leachman (Ruth Popper), Ellen Burstyn (Lois Farrow), Eileen Brennan (Genevieve), Clu Gulager (Abilene), Sam Bottoms (Billy), Randy Quaid (Lester Marlow), Gary Brockette (Bobby Sheen), Sharon Taggart (Charlene Duggs), Barc Doyle (Joe Bob Blanton), Bill Thurman (Coach Mr. Popper), Jessie Lee Fulton (Miss Mosey), Joe Heathcock (Town Sheriff), John Hillerman (English Teacher), and Frank Marshall (Tommy Logan) Directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

Review: 
Here it is. The big one. I hope to satisfy you folks with the review of this film, which I had been longing to do for quite some time, so what better way than now? It also happens to be a film set and shot in my home state of Texas. Enjoy the show.

It sometimes feels hard to explain the benefits or the highlights of the town you live in, especially if you live in a small city. What does it have that another city doesn't have? Is there much to having civic pride? Based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry, The Last Picture Show is an interesting look into what makes up a dying little town such as this, and the characters that live in it. Bottoms and Bridges are a fairly effective duo, each having an interesting quality to them that stands out, such as Bottoms' eyes and Bridges' charm, and they both do tremendous jobs that stick out in a cavalcade of stand-out performances. Shepherd (in her debut role) does a spirited job, managing to be interesting along with alluring. Near the halfway point of the film, Johnson's character reminisces about the time spent in a prairie, and the way that he talks about old memories seem like something you could hear from someone in your neck of the woods if you gave a listen. He doesn't have too many lines (in fact he is in the film for nine minutes), but it is the way that he expresses them that makes him an enduring figure in the film, as if he was the soul of the town. Leachman also pulls a capable job, particularly during the climax. The rest of the cast stick out in their own little ways. This film was nominated for six Academy Awards, with Johnson and Leachman winning for supporting roles. These are characters worth watching because these are characters that we can see with fair honesty. They don't suddenly become comic characters for no reason, nor do they become melodramatic, and that serves to be a key highlight and something worth striving for in film today. Is it a bleak film? At times it is, but it also manages to be moving along with enduring, and Bogdanovich is the one responsible for making a movie as put together and complete as this one is.

The city's flatness and empty nature is perfectly captured by the cinematography by Robert Surtees, in part because of how he arranges the shots; the fact that it is shot in black-and-white (decided by Bogdanovich through a conversation with Orson Welles) also helps in showing this town (and its people) with a certain aesthetic that proves fitting for the movie. Everything from the music (with songs from artists such as Hank Williams) to even the clip of the "last picture show" (from the ending of Red River) is planned out in an effective manner. The film proved to be a success upon release, and a Special Edition Director's cut was released in 1992 that added seven minutes to the run-time (making it 127 minutes) that adds a bit to the film's stature. It's a coming-of-age film, but it also is an honest movie that never seems to break its mood nor its intentions. This is a movie worth watching in part because of how it captures the essence of the time it portrays along with its town that seem fresh even after over 40 years since its release.

I just wanted to give a word of thanks to any and all viewers of Movie Night over the past one thousand reviews. It has been a pleasure doing so many reviews in nearly seven years, and I will be the first to say that they have improved in quality over time - but having at least a few people read them (and share appreciation on occasion) feels nice. I do not know what is in store for the next batch of reviews, but I hope that you will enjoy them. Thank you. 

Overall, I give it 10 out of 10 stars.

Attached is a compilation of various celebratory landmarks over the past few years, from the 50th all the way to now. Enjoy:

October 18, 2017

The Man Who Laughs (1928).


Review #999: The Man Who Laughs.

Cast: 
Mary Philbin (Dea), Conrad Veidt (Gwynplaine / Lord Clancharlie), Brandon Hurst (Barkilphedro), Olga Baklanova (Duchess Josiana), Cesare Gravina (Ursus), Stuart Holmes (Lord Dirry-Moir), Samuel de Grasse (King James II Stuart), George Siegmann (Dr. Hardquanonne), and Josephine Crowell (Queen Anne Stuart) Directed by Paul Leni (#863 - Waxworks)

Review: 
I figured that it would be fitting to do a silent film for the 999th review, with this being the 62nd of its type covered on Movie Night. You may notice that the square right next to the title card is in a few colors like pink, grey and black. These colors were utilized for the 99th review (Mutiny on the Bounty), albeit with a bit more stylizing this time around. Enjoy this review.

This was adapted from Victor Hugo's 1869 novel of the same name. The novel had one previous adaptation in 1921 named The Grinning Face, made in Austria. Universal had previously adapted Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (#850) back in 1923, and the intent was to have Chaney star in the title role after the success of that film, although issues to the rights of the novel meant that Chaney would be released from doing this film in favor of The Phantom of the Opera (#774). After that film's release, producer Carl Laemmle decided to try and make this as his next attempt at Gothic success, with Veidt picked to play the title role. Leni, who had recently moved to Hollywood after having been invited by Laemmele, was selected as director. Both choices prove to be fairly crucial in why this film works as well as it does; Leni uses his lighting and sets to fine effect, as one might expect from a German Expressionist such as him. Veidt wears a makeup device that made his mouth swollen while being supplied disturbing teeth, which contributes to the look of his character. While it is a great effect, it takes a good actor to help convey numerous emotions with only his eyes, and Veidt stands up to the challenge quite well. The appearance of Veidt proved to be the visual inspiration for the comic book villain the Joker, appearing in comics over a decade later. Philbin, playing a role not too different from her role from Phantom of the Opera (in which she played opposite Chaney), does a decent job, given that she is playing a blind person.

This film is sometimes counted as one of the films of the Universal Monsters series, and while it isn't much of a horror film, there is a fair amount of gloom within its tone to make a case for it, although it also has elements of romance and swashbuckling action. Yes, it has a climax with excitement, but the scenes that precede it also can be sad, such as when Veidt's character is shown in a freak show, or when he is being propositioned by Baklanova's character. The scene at the House of Lords proves to a moving and effective scene in part because of Vedit and his mannerisms towards the others. Though this is a silent movie, it was (on re-release) shown with sound effects, a synchronized score, and even a theme song (named "When Love Comes Stealing"). The sounds we get to hear are of laughter during the freak show, which is certainly a startling (and satisfying) effect, and the theme is fairly passable as well. As a whole, this is an efficient movie that satisfies on numerous levels while being fairly paced well at 110 minutes. It might not be the horror film that you might expect from seeing Veidt's appearance on screen, but it is a satisfying romance drama (with a bit of horror) with enough competence and style to make a top-notch effort.

Well. Here we are at end of review nine hundred ninty-nine. 
You are likely wondering what is next for the one thousandth review, so I'll tell you...

...tomorrow night, when the review is actually up. I'm not trying to hype the review, but I figure it makes sense to let you all wonder a bit and enjoy. 

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

October 13, 2017

Special - Michael Jackson's Thriller.


Review #X: Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Cast: 
Michael Jackson, co-starring Ola Ray, with 'Rap' from Vincent Price. Directed by John Landis (#328 - Trading Places, #410 - Coming to America, and #513 - Spies Like Us)

Dancers: Marcea Lane, Kim Blank, Lorraine Fields, Tony Fields, Michele Simmons,,Vincent Peters, Michael Peters, Vincent Paterson, Michael De Lorenzo, Ben Lokey, John Command, Richard Gaines, Mark Sellers, Suzan Stadner, Diane Geroni and Suga Pop.

Review: 
You probably are wondering what am I doing reviewing a music video, especially on Friday the 13th. Honestly, I do enjoy Movie Night and the films that it can cover (for better or for worse), but I decided that it wouldn't hurt to do something that was both interesting and different from the usual content. This is basically a one-off special for me, and I hope you enjoy this, especially for an October like this.

How many music videos linger in your memory? Or more importantly, can a music video be more than just a "vanity piece" for a song/album? If you haven't guessed my opinion, Michael Jackson's Thriller is one of the most memorably crafted pieces of music video ever put onto screen ever since its release in 1983, especially if you enjoy Jackson's music (as I do from time to time) or like the execution of direction and movement. The Thriller album happens to be the world's best-selling album, but the motivation for doing this album is because the record had fallen off being #1 in the summer of 1983. One can't really say anything too substantial about the acting, since it plays only a small role in regards to the "story", but it gets the job done (this was five years before Moonwalker (#403), which was actually stranger, especially since that was an actual film). Jackson and Ray seem to be a decent little duo, but the real star of the show involves the dancing and the "Rap" by Vincent Price, who seems to revel in delivering these lines so capably well, the perfect choice. Landis, who had directed An American Werewolf in London just two years prior (speaking of films, that is one I will have to get to eventually) was recruited by Jackson to make (along with write) the video, and it certainly is interesting seeing how film directors did not generally direct music videos at the time. He does a fine job in setting the mood, with the photography by Robert Paynter being a big help as well in making for a spooky experience, especially with the ending. The choreography by Michael Peters and Jackson is praiseworthy, having movements that are still being done and repeated to this very day. The fact that there are numerous allusions to horror films also helps in making for a interesting atmosphere, from the parody of horror films to the style of the two leads in clothes. Rick Baker contributed to the special effects, and they are the hauntingly spectacular capstone in a video that has expert production values. It was actually screened in theaters (along with the 1940 film Fantasia) in December of 1983 as an attempt to garner a nomination for an Academy Award as a short subject, though it was not nominated. However, it did win a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video (now known as Best Music Film).

Among all of the iconic things one can cite from the film, the jacket (designed by Deborah Nadoolman Landis) worn by Jackson is particularly noteworthy, particularly because of how cool it looks. There is something undeniably entertaining about how he rocks the jacket. You might wonder if it overstays its welcome, seeing how it runs at 13 minutes, 41 seconds. But it really isn't, and that is likely due to how entertaining it proves itself to be, not feeling overtly dragged out. This is a landmark of music videos, to the point that it was even selected for the National Film Registry in 2009 by the Library of Congress, the first ever music video to be selected.

For the rating system, here is something different for the review different from the rest. Enjoy today, along with the rest of the month, folks. I hope you enjoyed this special.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 5 stars.