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50 reviews in total 
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No funny business here., 29 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A cold, cruel and cynical tale of revenge and vigilantism from writer/director James Glickenhaus. John Eastland (Robert Ginty) becomes judge and executioner after his army friend is gravely wounded by thugs. The uncut DVD version from Anchor Bay also stars Christopher George, Dennis Boutsikaris and Samantha Eggar. Yes, that's sax man Stan Getz making an appearance at a concert in Battery Park.

I saw The Exterminator in the theater when it was first released in 1980 and, at age 22, it was the only movie that ever made me feel physically ill. Ginty's encounter with the chicken pimp and the state senator is as grim as any execution scene put on film even though it is not the most graphic. Director Glickenhaus skillfully creates a raw and realistic rage with documentary-style camera work and lighting as Ginty methodically and brutally dispenses his brand of justice.

The graphic pre-credit Vietnam sequence was filmed at Indian Dunes Park; the same location as the tragic scene from Twilight Zone where Vic Morrow and two children were killed.

Sarafina! (1992)
Freedom is Coming, 2 March 2013

Darrell James Roodt directed this superb film based on the 1988 Tony Award nominee for Best Musical and Best Actress in a Musical. A gripping drama depicting the apartheid struggle and subsequent student riots in Soweto, South Africa that is laced with fantastic songs and production numbers. The cast features Whoopi Goldberg, South African singing legend Miriam Makeba (Pata Pata) and the amazing Leleti Khumalo in the title role. Also watch for Robert Whitehead's chilling performance as a prison interrogator. Includes songs by the film's co-writer Mbongeni Ngema who also plays Constable Sabela in the film. Additional selections were written by Hugh Masekela (Grazing in the Grass). The energetic choreography is by Michael Peters (Thriller).

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Hard to find western gem., 16 October 2011

If you have an all-region DVD player, which costs less than $100, you may order a very fine anamorphic widescreen copy of this film from Amazon Italy.

Don Murray, on the run after an accidental killing, eludes R.G. Armstrong and a very young Dennis Hopper in this stark western from Henry Hathaway. Along the way he meets a rancher and falls in love with the man's daughter. A fiery confrontation with the dead man's family finally brings closure to this violent chase story. Well developed characters not usually found in this genre.

Hard to find and well worth the effort.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
It has the goods., 25 June 2011

To many critics the tag "A Michael Winner Film" was always greeted with scorn. To me, as a teenager during the '70s, it meant simply a great movie. The guy had style and he was never shy during an era when major studios took chances with edgy stories.

Winner was a winner (Death Wish, The Mechanic, The Nightcomers) and this film was daring and brilliant. An all-star cast brings to life the story of a young woman with baggage who lives in a building that happens to be the gateway to hell. Rosemary and her baby never had it this good. Full of great shocks including an ending worthy of Tod Browning's Freaks.

Grown Ups (2010)
1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Laughed out loud the entire time, 21 January 2011

After a hectic week in frigid Chicago, our entire family watched this movie together on Friday night. To put it simply, we laughed our asses off. Kevin, Adam, Rob, Chris and David are at the top of their game and Grown Ups is a riot. An added bonus is Steve Bucemi's appearance in the second half. He hasn't been this funny since The Big Lebowski.

Slapstick humor, dumb one-liners and groaners, a lot of old age gags, a few fart jokes and even a couple of sweet moments made this film worth our time. The supporting cast includes Salma Hayek, Maria Bello and Maya Rudolph. Even the indie crowd likes a good kick to the groin now and then.

Director Dennis Dugan paces this comedy well and manages to keep any one of his comedy stars from stealing the show. Look for his cameo during the flashback scenes of the kids' basketball game.

Sometimes we want art and sometimes we really need to enjoy ourselves. Come on and lighten up, Grown Ups is funny!

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Hard to find, worth the effort., 10 September 2010

The opening sequences of Lon Chaney as the magician foreshadow the dark atmospheres that director Tod Browning would later create for Freaks and Mark of the Vampire. Excellent photography and an astonishing physical performance that was the hallmark of Chaney's work.

I remember this film being shown on Chicago's PBS outlet WTTW-TV during the 1970s. It was tinted in certain scenes and featured a new score that was fresh, yet not too modern. A master from this television showing has to exist somewhere.

Why this fantastic film is not more readily available is a mystery. It deserves to be seen on DVD or Turner Classic Movies.

Appaloosa (2008)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Fantastic and understated, 4 July 2010

Much like the Robert B. Parker novel on which this film is based, director Ed Harris has fashioned a minimalist masterpiece.

Great photography and tremendous attention to detail contribute to a brisk story of violence and revenge in Arizona. It was refreshing to see the gunfights staged in a realistic manner. No endless shots of the shooters hands and eyes prior to pulling the trigger, and no firearms that sound like small artillery cannons.

Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen speak volumes with their silence in many of the scenes. The viewer is well aware that these two have a history of trust. Jeremy Irons is pure evil as the typical villain wanting to own the town. It was also a pleasure to see James Gammon in a supporting role as Earl May, one of the town fathers.

Renee Zellweger is appropriately annoying as Allie French, much like the character in the book. She is the only person who can distract Virgil Cole. There was no need to detail her bad cooking and poor piano playing from the novel. The unspoken visuals between the two actors conveyed their story easily.

Appaloosa is a fine western and terrific alternative to the usual shoot 'em up stories we often see. There are three more Virgil Cole novels from the late Robert B. Parker, and here's to seeing another film from this talented crew.

What did you expect?, 3 July 2010

The division of opinions for this film seem to reflect the conflict between the characters of Dr. Webber and Mr. Crowley. Sometimes there is a need for strict reality, but often a feel good story with a positive outcome is what the viewer wants.

In this case matters of the heart took precedence. As the parent of two special needs kids, this story helped validate the struggles many parents have faced in not knowing if their children would survive a major health crisis.

To the realists and their negative reviews I would say this: the movie was based on a book titled "The Cure." What did you think you were going to get? Bravo to the actors and writers of Extraordinary Measures.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A great impression of the music, 27 June 2010

I saw American Pop in a suburban Chicago theater when it was first released.

I was impressed with the film and have always enjoyed it as a musical rather than a drama. At the time the surround sound was striking as was the alternate form of animation(rotoscope)and use of color. Being able to see American Pop in 35mm on a large screen was an experience, as I believe many of the film's critics have only seen inferior video versions.

With musical selections dating from the 1920s through 1980 this film is a fantastic visualization of the spirit and essence of American music. The dance sequences from the Big Band era are especially effective.

I have shown it in my high school music appreciation class a few times with very negative reactions from the students. I dig American Pop, however, and I know others of my generation will enjoy it.

Ralph Bakshi, a true artist.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Another lost gem from the 1970s, 28 August 2009

Beautiful to look at and serene in its pacing, this gem from 1970 deserves a chance to find an audience today.

Those who have seen the very fine remake with Tom Selleck may be surprised to find that the two scripts are word for word identical about 80% of the time. Lee Marvin is more melancholy in his approach to Monte Walsh, and as a result this version plays a bit more on the wistful side. It is quite moving at times.

Both films enjoy a sly sense of humor although this version is more subtle.

John Barry's score supplies just a hint of the style he would later utilize for his epic Dances With Wolves. Mama Cass sings her heart out on The Good Times are Coming Soon.

Jack Palance plays wonderfully against type as the somewhat bashful Chet.

Monte Walsh needs to be re-released as a proper DVD so we don't have to rely on inferior bootleg copies from eBay.

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