Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Sheba, Baby (1975) - BOMB. Poor Pam Grier flick suffers from dull script, bad acting, little action, no nudity. What were they thinking?? Barbara Mason’s funky soundtrack is its only virtue.
SherryBaby (2006) - ***. Another gutsy role for Maggie Gyllenhaal as a drug-addict ex-con trying to get her life together. Nice to see bad guy Danny Trejo in a sympathetic role too.
Watchmen (2008) - * ½. Expensive, overlong, self-important superhero gobbledygook without one sympathetic character among them. Based on Alan Moore’s celebrated graphic novel.
Whiteout (2009) - * ½. There’s a killer on the South Pole and only Kate Beckinsale can catch him in this trite, illogical time waster.
Die, Mommy, Die (2003) - ** ½. Campy John Waters-like tribute to 50s melodramas stars drag performer Charles Busch as a washed up singer mounting a comeback in the worst possible way. Fun for awhile, but Busch fared better with Psycho Beach Party (2000).
Whip It (2009) - ***. Predictable but likable ‘girl power’ roller derby movie. Excellent work by Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern as Ellen Page’s parents. Directed by Drew Barrymore who also co-stars.
Corsair (1931) - ** ½.. This sturdy, atmospheric rum-runner movie received a bum rap in the Thelma Todd bio, Hot Toddy, but is well worth seeing. Todd has a thankless role as a bitchy society girl in one of her few dramatic performances. Director Roland West’s last film.
The Last Flight (1931)- ** ½. Four shell-shocked airmen decide to stay in France after the war and pursue the same girl (an irritating Helen Chandler ). Borrows alot from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (right down to the bullfights). David Manners’ character is remarkably fey, at one time called “a big sissy”. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
The Captain Hates the Sea (1934) - **. This hodgepodge on the high seas stars alcoholic John Gilbert as a drunk in his last role, comic Leon Errol plays it straight and the Three Stooges have barely any screen time (only Larry has dialogue). Unfortunately even with these oddities, the comedy is unfunny and the drama is contrived.
Blow-Out (1981) - **. A wildly inappropriate noirish score and an awful performance by Nancy Allen sink this so-called DePalma “thriller”. The director’s Hitchcock fixation and misogynistic view are in full bloom in this sleazy variation of Antonioni’s Blow-Up. Still one of Travolta’s better performances.
The Chief (1933) - * ½. Fascinating failed attempt to bring radio’s Ed Wynn to the screen. By this time, Wynn (immensely popular on stage , radio, and early television) was about 40 years too old for his “Perfect Fool” persona. Film (by MGM no less) actually ends contrived plot early to showcase Wynn’s radio show. Perennial mug Nat Pendleton is good though.
Hot Rod Girl (1956) - * ½. Tease of a low-budgeter with hardly a ‘hot-rod gal’ in sight. It does have Chuck Connors and Frank Gorshin in early roles. Best seek out the similar but superior Dragstrip Girl (1957) also with Gorshin.
Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) - ***. Considered by many the film that ushered in Blaxploitation, Cotton is slicker than most and thus less fun, but you still have good period detail, anti-whitey sentiments and gorgeous, naked Judy Pace seducing everyone in sight. Directed by Ossie Davis from Chester Himes’ novel.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
Sit Tight (1931) - ** ½. Awfully bizarre early Joe E. Brown comedy casts him as a letch in Winnie Lightner’s spa. First time I’ve seen the wisecracking Lightner (who looks like a young Karl Malden in drag) in what is basically a mixed bag of racy burlesque routines stitched together.
Flying High (1931) - ** ½. Mancrazy Charlotte Greenwood outshines the material in this at times unendurable Bert Lahr comedy. As with Joe E. Brown, Bert Wheeler, and other comedians of this era, Lahr’s “cowardly” antics come across as slightly effeminate. Pat O’Brian is out of his element as Lahr’s crony in this George White’s Scandals stage show.
The Better ‘Ole (1926) - *. Painfully unfunny WW1 comedy starring Charlie’s half-brother, Sydney Chaplin, a life-time private who matches wits with Sgt. Edgar Kennedy. Based on a popular British stage hit, this probably isn’t the best way to meet Sydney, who had a lengthy career. I imagine the short was his forte, because he is unimpressive here.
2012 (2009) - * ½. This film coulda used Sydney Chaplin! Every disaster film cliché is employed to bookend the DAZZLING SPECIAL EFFECTS that Hollywood believes we deserve when the world ends.
When Ladies Meet (1933)- **1/2. Myrna Loy competes with Ann Harding for the love of Frank Morgan in this soapy talkfest. Top-billed Harding is pleasant if somewhat dull while Loy exudes star quality. Alice Brady adds amble support, while perennial ‘excitable Italian’ Luis Alberni plays an excitable French valet.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The International (2009) - ***. Solid actioner has Clive Owen and an underwritten Naomi Watts going against a crooked banking system (shocking!). Scene in the Guggenheim is a standout.
The Merry Widow (1925) - ***. Mae Murray fends off three horndogs (roguish John Gilbert, slimy Roy D'Arcy, and crippled foot-fetishist Tully Marshall) in Erich Von Stroheim's extravagant silent romance. Enough weird Stroheim touches throughout to maintain interest but bogs down considerably in second half.
Gran Torino (2008) - ****. Clint Eastwood's pitch perfect as widower Walt Kowalski, a retired autoworker who begrudgingly befriends his Hmong neighbors. A burning plea for the reestablishing of honor and vanishing values. Awesome.
Navy Blues (1929) - **. Not a 'good' movie by any means, but a wonderful showcase for its two stars, effete William Haines and adorable Anita Page. Haines was #1 male star at the box office that year, though he's clearly outgrowing his 'Silly Billy" persona. Doomed Karl Dane lends good support as a gob.
Jinx Money (1948) - **1/2. Possibly the quintessential Bowery Boys comedy benefits from thug Sheldon Leonard and ham Donald (Room Service) MacBride as police chief. Directed by William "One-Take" Beaudine.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) - ****. Tommy Lee Jones stars and directs this sure handed modern day western about a trigger-happy sociopath border patrolman who meets his match when he kills the title character, Jones' best friend. A classic.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Youth of the Beast (1963) ***1/2. Best Suzuki film of the few I've seen. Lone wolf infiltrates two gangs and pits them against each other. 60s Style to burn. A must see.
Dead Heat on a Merry Go Round (1966) ** 1/2. Very deliberately paced heist film where James Coburn dons different personas throughout until an abrupt and surprising conclusion. Coburn is always good while everybody else is pretty forgettable except Joey Faye, Rose Marie and Harrison Ford's awkward turn as a bellboy in his 1st movie.
I Love You, Man (2009) **. Contrived, overlong comedy " bromance" scores some laughs early on then drags on and on like most of today's post - Apatow comedies. Never liked Rush either. Passaic NJ 's Paul Rudd who plays basically the same character in Roll Models (2009) ***, a somewhat poignant community service comedy.
Sing Your Worries Away (1942) - **. Grade C musical boasts the novel (and odd) teaming of Bert Lahr and Buddy ( coulda been a " tinman") Ebsen, along with Patsy Kelly and the late June Havoc. Incredibly, this mishmash was the very next movie Lahr made after OZ three years earlier! Margaret Dumont has a small role.
The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945) ** 1/2. Kurosawa's 3rd movie is a very modest soundstage production which relies heavily on the comedic Puck-like antics of Kenichi Enomoto as a porter, which at times are hard to take. It is only as film progresses that you realize his character's importance. For completists only, I'm afraid.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Defiance (1980) - ***. I remember seeing this at the drive-in back in high school. Merchant marine Jan-Michael Vincent battles New York gang with help from Theresa Saldana, Danny Aiello, Art Carney and future Soprano fixture Tony Sirico. Definitely a film of its time, but done with conviction.
Twilight (2008) - * 1/2. Christ, did this suck.
Le Samourai (1967) - ****. Alain Delon plays the definitive existential hired gun in Jean-Pierre Melville's homage to the American gangster film. A more masterful piece of coolness would be hard to find. Essential.