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Not a good waste of time...
I really wanted to like this film. I loved the director's earlier "Night Tides" movie which I saw at a special screening in the '90s somewhere in Hollywood. Many critics have praised this film and I heard it was a minor hit when it came out so I was looking forward to it.
That said, this is not an easy movie to like. I think part of the problem lies in the forced attempt at creating the '50s setting. In larger budgeted films where you can use a studio back lot or hire tons of top-notch art directors, set dressers, expensive costumers, etc., that type of recreation can work (although sometimes it does do not) but in this case it seemed like they were trying to too hard to set it in the '50s -- it seemed off. My wife walked by while I was watching it, didn't know anything about this movie and said, "it looks like a '70s movie." Why would she say this? Something about it is off, the haircuts seem a little bit too shaggy and some of the costumes aren't quite right. It was a coup to get all the period cars though, gotta give credit where credit is due.
Anyway, getting to the story. This is also kinda weird. We're supposed to believe that a nightclub singer whose beloved boyfriend was killed by his mobster friends right in front of her eyes would hire the same mobsters to help her run a drive-in after they are paroled from prison? And she's even sleeping with one of them? I don't think so. Had a hard time buying that. Piper Laurie as said singer is also shown in flashbacks from 17 years ago and instead of getting a different actress (one who might be 30 pounds lighter) they simply change her hair do. I'm not buying it.
The acting is hit and miss. Piper is one-note shrill. Stuart Whitman as her retired mobster boyfriend is pretty good. The guy playing the parapsychologist (or whatever he was - somehow he doubled as the prison doctor, from what the dialogue inferred) seemed like something out of another movie entirely. The best acting goes to the weirdo possessed daughter who gets to be in the movie's few effective scenes when she babbles in a man's voice. Maybe if the film included more of these "Exorcist"-inspired scenes it would have worked better.
The laughable ending with Piper fighting a plastic skeleton in the water is mind-numbingly awful. Even worse is the "Laura" rip-off end song which is just bad.
Assassinate this movie!
First off, I'm a huge Bronson fan, have been since the late '70s. I watched every film he made on the big screen since "Love and Bullets", which ironically was the beginning of his end as a big name, Hollywood-blockbuster star.
I kept hoping that things would turn around for him, that he would make a really good film in the '80s, but that never happened. And I don't know what he was thinking when he signed with cheapjack studio Cannon and hack director J. Lee Thompson for most of his latter films.
"Assasination" gave me some hopes when I saw that Peter Hunt was directing instead of Thompson but those hopes were quickly dashed. First off, the film looks incredibly cheap, like it was made for about 3 mil, minus Bronson's inflated salary (I heard he insisted on 5 mil per picture which is probably more than the rest of the budget for all his Cannon films). The White House scenes were filmed on the VA grounds in West LA - I was taking the bus when they were shooting. Nice job on recreating the white house but did no one think about getting the Palm trees out of the shots? Guess not.
Secondly, the supporting cast is really bad. Ireland was dying of cancer and despite this she's not bad but the horrible Asian woman playing Bronson's sidekick was typical of Cannon's talent at the time --non-existent. I would be real curious to learn how she got this role. I can't imagine a worse actress for the part, plus she's a good 40 years younger than Bronson! The story is not that bad and it's something that bigger and better-budgeted studios did later (Eastwood's "In the Line of Fire" and Costner's "Bodyguard" film) but the way it's staged here is really sad. I'm wondering if they could not afford to do more than one or two takes per shot. None of it is believable in the slightest. If Secret Service men really behaved like the keystone cops in this movie we'd have presidents rotating out of office (and out of life) every few months...
Last Seen at Angkor (2006)
Really, really, really bad...
Where does one begin? I had an interest in the subject matter (SE Asia - not prostitution!) because of a month-long trip I spent in Cambodia, Thailand and other parts of the area, including a few days in Siem Reap, where some of the action supposedly takes place. I say "supposedly" because while there was some quick footage of the temples it seemed to mainly consist of one still shot (might have even been a photograph, not sure) of Angkor Wat. The rest of the film seemed to be shot in the alleyways of some SE Asian country - you couldn't be sure. There was one quick scene shot on the bank of some river I had walked on in Siem Reap but it wasn't a very good angle. Then it hit me - I'm betting this whole film was shot guerilla style without permits! That would explain why you never (except for perhaps one brief scene that looked like it may have been shot surreptitiously) see the characters actually walking in front of the temples - there weren't any real good scenes that might have benefited from the exotic beauty of this area.
But then what do you expect from this film that liberally rips off parts of "Memento" and any number of other films? For the record, it is ostensibly about a loser American grade school teacher who we see gazing at a young girl soccer player in the opening scene while he's in the classroom. This will make sense by the end of the film though you probably won't really care at that point. Through flashbacks we see that his wife mysteriously disappeared after he proposed to her in Siem Reap -- 4 years ago. Then it cuts to him in Thailand or some other SE Asian country (not sure) where he meets up with some private eye dude who says his office is in Singapore (I guess all Asians speak the same language - NOT) but somehow "knows" the right people to contact in Cambodia. How he knows the Khmer language as well as Thai is never answered. No doubt a multi-talented linguist. The film follows these two guys as they sleep in dingy, ugly hotels (guess the filmmakers couldn't afford more than $5.00 a night - you can live like kings for $25.00). None of this makes a lot of sense and at one point the lead character even asks his guide why they have to stay in such a sh*thole. The guide never gives a convincing answer. Both actors are pretty bad. The video quality is not very good. And none of the locations except for some extremely brief bits shot in Siem Reap are that interesting. Literally 90% of it is shot either in crappy hotel rooms or in nondescript alleys. I kid you not.
If you really want to see a good film on Angkor Wat or Cambodia in general there are a number of documentaries you can rent. Or watch the first "Tomb Raider" with Angelina Jolie. But please, please skip this movie. The surprise "twist" at the end is not so much intriguing as it is nauseating unless you are the type of tourist who is into the sort of activity that will give you a hefty jail sentence in most countries in the world, particularly Cambodia.
Criminally underrated film
This is an excellent movie that had zero promotion when it came out in the early 90s. I saw a small flyer for it at some punk/art shop and based on that alone went to see it. I loved it and dragged back my brother to see it 2 days later. Guess what -- it had already stopped playing!
This is a film that is so L.A.-specific -- I have seen the art-student creepy types at many a gallery opening. All the actors do an excellent job particularly the extremely weird MK Harris as the artist (hardly need to mention Brad Dourif who is always good). It is a true crime that this is not available on DVD with director's commentary. Kurt Voss also made "Sugar Town" -- another very good L.A.-specific film -- but I think this is his best.
If you have a multi-region DVD player you can get a copy from the UK -- otherwise try to track down Kurt Voss in L.A.!
Update (10-1-10) -- it's available -NEW- in Region 2 DVD for under $5.00 on Amazon U.S.! Just ordered my copy. With all-region DVD players costing less than 100 there is no reason not to get this film.
Cold Heart Canyon (2008)
Having seen the lead actor, Will Lupardus, in a superb short at a film festival in Boston ("Westsider"), I was looking forward to seeing this feature-length "erotic thriller" at my local Blockbuster, since I do not recall it being given a theatrical release (at least not here in a "small market" like Los Angeles).
A director's talent or lack thereof, can be noticed immediately in this amateurish piece of digital video embarrassment. The film is about a woman (Aubrey Caldwell) leaving her cheating husband to "find herself" in some deserted location (supposedly the hip Laurel Canyon but it looks more like some hellish spot in Woodland Hills). Once there she meets a leering pool boy (whose point in the film is completely meaningless), and, more importantly to the plot, a kinky couple (Lupardus and sexy, South African girlfriend Lee Anne Davis).
After a ménage à trois (implied but never shown) the much older (by at least 15-20 years) and not-so-good looking Aubrey makes a play for twenty-something Lupardus. Lupardus explains he is into her (why??) but she must respect his "special needs." None of this makes any sense. There is zero chemistry between the two leads. The actors look confused like they have no direction. The script does not help matters either as there is no dialog that explains the attraction.
The end of the film (which I won't spoil because I'm sure you can't wait to check out this cinematic masterpiece), makes little sense as well. An effeminate male character from the beginning, who looks like he's reading lines off a cue card, makes another appearance which is supposed to explain things but only irritates. Maybe if the director bothered to shoot in more than two locations it might help.
This isn't good enough for the worst Cinemax late night entry. There is a little nudity -- none by the South African hottie and, hilariously, none by lead Caldwell, which makes you wonder -- why bother making a pseudo-porn without the porn? For masochists only. Seriously. Don't judge Lupardus by this film. I've seen him in better work. Look out for "Westsider" which had a great script and a real director.
Rocket Science (2007)
I haven't bothered to read all of the other comments but I'm sure it must have been stated before -- this is a completely mediocre comedy that is simply yet another attempt by Hollywood to ride on the coattails of much better films like "Rushmore" and "Napoleon Dynamite." Whereas those films had one or two quirky characters, the hack director of this film decided to up the ante and make ALL but one or two characters "quirky." Was this an attempt to quadruple the laughs? If so, he failed miserably.
I was thinking about a great teenage comedy film from the late '70s/early'80s - "My Bodyguard" which carried a similar theme of a young, loser kid trying to find his place in the world. That film not only appeared a million times more real but it also limited the "quirky" quotient to one character -- Ruth Gordon.
C'mon Hollywood, stop cannibalizing yourself. Let's see something new...
It Runs in the Family (1994)
Really bad. Why anyone thinks this is a good film let alone funny is a true mystery. I like comedies as much as the next man and I LOVED "A Christmas Story." The fact that it has the same director and was based on the same writer's memoirs has me completely puzzled as to why this film is such a complete failure on every level. Charles Grodin is woefully miscast as the father for starters. For another it does not seem to have the same pacing -- it just doesn't flow well. Everything seems tired and forced. The joy of life that permeated the first film is completely absent here -- you just want the movie to end. I wouldn't even recommend this movie for curiosity-seekers who enjoyed "A Christmas Story." It's that bad. 1/10.
Young Warriors (1983)
Not just a bad movie, a truly wretched piece of garbage
There are good-bad movies and bad-bad-movies and enjoyably bad movies...this isn't one of them. This is a movie that doesn't realize just how bad it is.
I saw this at a screening on November 14, 2006 at the New Beverly Theater in Los Angeles as part of the "Grindhouse Cinema" this theater puts on every month. Hopefully presenters Eric Caiden & co. will think twice before letting writer/director Lawrenece Foldes anywhere near them again. What a con man. The guy got up to speak before the film -- you would think he was Orson Welles talking about "Touch of Evil" or some other lost classic. Hardly. Nice of him to take up 20 minutes of the audiences' time with his incoherent rambling.
"Young Warriors" has been described as a cross between "Animal House" and "Death Wish" but if you are expecting something along the lines of imitations like "Revenge of the Nerds" or "The Exterminator" you will be in for one sad disappointment. The script makes zero sense. The direction is so poor the actors looked embarrassed and what can you say when the best thing about the movie is watching a car blow up?
Poor Richard "shaft" Roundtree. In this movie he plays another character with the first name of "John" but that's about the only similarity his character here has to the aforementioned classic. I hope this film allowed him to pay the rent for another month. Other actors who look like they wished they could be anywhere else included Ernest Borgnine and Linda Day George.
This is a complete waste of time. Even the audience did not seem that into it (except for the one spazz-boy sitting in the back who yelled "whoa" every five minutes and his girlfriend who giggled with the fervor of a lobotomized talking Barbie every time he opened his mouth).
For real films about vigilantes, I would suggest the following:
Death Wish I, II, III, Exterminator I, Vigilante Force, Ms. 45, Rolling Thunder, the No-Mercy Man (the latter two being a pair of films presented at this theater a couple of years ago -- probably the same budget as "Young Warriors" but both were a million times better!)
Sleep Always (2002)
Amazing job all around
Films about obsessive men hung up on elusive women have been made before (look at 80% of the Lifetime channel's programming) but "Sleep Always" is something else altogether. The lead character in this film has little going on in his life until he runs into a good-looking homeless woman (the best looking homeless woman I've ever seen!) but fortunately the film's writing and acting work well towards creating a non-clichéd story, one that stays with you long after the film ends.
This film was shot on Super-8 reversal stock (7240 for those who care) -- and it's amazing that the images look as good as they do. I was impressed by how well it was shot despite these limitations. Rather than detract, the super-8 format lends to the unsettling tone...this is creepy stuff bordering on Lynchian-territory. If you are in the mood for something offbeat and non-Hollywood I would highly recommend this film.
The lead actress was excellent -- I can see her going places. The actor, not as good, but not embarrassing either.
Mean Johnny Barrows (1976)
Bad...so bad...(as in not good)...on a $4.99 budget...
Fred Williamson is a charismatic actor but he shouldn't be allowed behind the camera for the simple reason that he has no clue as how to direct a film. I had heard that his earlier films were better than the direct-to-vid films he slapped together in the '80s but this film, made just as the blaxploitation craze was winding down, is beyond belief.
I'd like to think that he had a crew of 5 people: 2 for sound, one high school student to do the lighting, an A.D., and himself...oh yeah, I guess he'd need a cameraman. Well maybe one of the actors handled that when they weren't needed in front of the camera. That might explain a lot. This is, technically, a truly horrible film: the sound, lighting, camera are all beyond amateur.
What really takes the cake is the inclusion of good actors like Roddy McDowell, Elliot Gould (as one reviewer noted below -- this is the best scene and it makes no sense but is welcome anyway) and Stuart Whitman. Were these actors behind in their car payments? If you want good blaxploitation and you like Williamson, check out "Bucktown" or "Black Caesar" or any of the early '70s films he starred in before he thought he knew how to direct. This is an embarrassment to all the cast and crew (except for Gould who is hilarious!).
I'd love to hear from a crew member who worked on this dreck. I'm sure it was a nightmare.