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"Student Bodies" came out at the height of the mad slasher craze with
high expectations. The timing couldn't have been better as it seemed
there was a new low budget horror film opening every other week.
"Student Bodies" seemed like a welcome refresher as the genre was ripe
Sad to say but "Student Bodies" is a dead fish of a comedy after a strong first ten minutes which do illicit some genuine laughs. After that the jokes become obvious and tedious which comes as a surprise since writer/director Mickey Rose had collaborated with Woody Allen on some of his early work. The real sign that this is a stinker is that acclaimed director Michael Ritchie took on the role of producer here and had his name removed from the finished product. Yes, Alan Smithee became a producer for a time.
Mr. Ritchie knew of the stench he was part of and wisely distanced himself. The cast is a cross of no talent stiffs crossed with people that appear to have been cast from the circus. Apparently Rose thought just the sight of a man with long arms and legs (credited as "The Stick") was funny enough.
Audiences apparently agreed as the film would bomb after a strong opening weekend before the reviews made the Monday papers. This is a major blown opportunity. Can you imagine what might have been had the Zucker brothers with Jim Abrahams had followed up "Airplane" with their take on mad slasher films? A classic that was not to be.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Gable and Lombard" made me angry as I watched it. You see I made a
mistake of reading a book based on their life together and what amazed
me was how inaccurate the movie is. Allow me to point out just a few of
the MANY facts that are wrong with the movie.
1) The film opens with Gable at the plane crash site which has taken the life of Miss Lombard. He wears an Army uniform when in real life he didn't join until later.
2) At the crash site he is comforted by Lombard's press agent when in reality the press agent was killed in the crash as well.
3) The movie makes it appear that they kept their love life secret when in real life they often appeared together in public and made no secret of it.
4) In real life Gable and Lombard had worked together years before their affair started. The movie has them meeting and falling in love almost immediately.
5) The film over emphasizes Lombard's popularity.
Ah but who cares right? Most people don't know the real story and probably don't care. What you want to know is if the movie is any good. I imagine many people will probably enjoy this film but it's nothing more then a silly Hollywood romance that just happened to involve one of the biggest movie stars of the day. Frankly I was so distracted by the common factual errors it would have been impossible for me to enjoy. Let's face it when you watch a story involving real people you imagine that most if not all of what you are seeing either really happened or is a close representation thereof. To watch this movie is to see a screenwriter's fictional invention with real people. In other words I found it to be a scam.
As for the performances James Brolin is essentially imitating Gable from the "Gone With the Wind" era. He would have been more effective had he just made the character his own. He somewhat resembles Gable so we don't need the voice imitation. Jill Clayburgh comes off slightly better simply because she is given less to do.
"Gable and Lombard" may be a nice fictional movie but they should have changed the names and made the characters unknown. The ghosts of the real actors and their true stories linger from frame one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Blue Collar" is a simple story masterfully told by co-writer/director
Paul Schrader. This dramatic tale tells the story of 3 union auto
workers tired of the constant screwing they get from their union. Each
man is a hard worker with troubles outside of work to deal with.
Richard Pryor, in easily his best performance, plays a man in trouble with the IRS. He's been claiming more dependents on his taxes then actual kids he really has and now they have caught up to him. At work he has a defective locker that continually cuts his hand when he fights with it. One of the key scenes in the movie is when he goes to his union president who fakes a phone call to the union rep about getting the locker fixed. The message is clear: The union could care less about its workers.
Harvey Keitel is a man with his own problems. His daughter is in such need of braces which he can't afford, one day she tries to put some metal in her mouth herself. And Yaphet Kotto, in a performance that should have merited Oscar consideration, plays a streetwise bad-ass who lives check to check spending money on booze, drugs and women.
One day the three men decide to rob the union safe but end up getting hold of some important information that, if made public, could bring the union down. Soon union thugs and the FBI will become involved. That's as far as I will go with the plot. One of the joys is watching the plot unfold as these three men realize they have gotten in WAY over their heads with something that seemed so simple to begin with. Credit again must fall to director Schrader for keeping things moving and showing a realistic way of life as an auto worker. Every time we are in the plant Schrader blasts the soundtrack with pulsating music. Each man's home life is realistically depicted and the ultimate fate of each man is real and totally believable.
I only have one quibble with this superb but sadly overlooked classic. The final shot is a bit heavy handed and much too abrupt. The film should and could have gone on another ten minutes. Endings seem to be Schrader's Achilles heel as he has the same problem with his equally superb and powerful "Hardcore" which was made the next year. It's ending is much too abrupt and totally unsatisfying as well. But that aside, "Blue Collar" is a film to be seen. Pryor is magnificent in his first major leading dramatic role. I wish he had done more of a mix of comedic and dramatic performances throughout his career because, as proved here, he was certainly up to the task. Keitel and Kotto are equally as fine as Pryor. A great film that deserves to be seen.
Gene Wilder became the first (soon to be followed by Marty Feldman and
Dom DeLuise) to jump into the director's chair after successful
collaborations with Mel Brooks. His debut as writer/director is "The
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" which is a hit and miss
comedy with more misses then hits.
The idea is interesting enough with the great detective having a younger, jealous brother. Sigi (Wilder) refers to his famous older brother as Sheer-luck and it's a classic moment that makes one yearn for more throughout. Wilder certainly borrows enough from Brooks (characters break out in song unexpectedly; modern items pop up in this period piece) but he strains to get the laughs. Marty Feldman is amusing as Sigi's sidekick but Madeline Kahn is wasted as the heroine.
The other major flaw is the story itself. The mystery isn't much of one in the first place so we never really get caught up in it. Wilder relies too much on the sight gags to sustain ones interest.
The bottom line is Wilder has made a lesser Mel Brooks film when he should have brought Brooks on board and perhaps turned this mediocre comedy into something more. As it is it may be amusing but without Brooks at his side amusing just isn't enough.
"Moment By Moment" came out at a perfect in the career of John
Travolta. Hot off the huge successes of "Saturday Night Fever" and
"Grease" he must have thought he could do no wrong and boy was he ever
wrong about that. You don't get much worse then "Moment By Moment"
which is a silly love story between an older woman and a young man. A
provocative idea you say? Perhaps, but there is nothing provocative
about this movie.
Travolta and Lily Tomlin are cast in the leads and we can see right from the start that they have absolutely no chemistry what so ever. That right there would sink any love story. But writer/director Jane Wagner's awful script continues topping (or bottoming) itself with hopeless ideas and ridiculous situations without directly confronting the central issue of the story.
You would think in a movie about an older woman/younger man relationship we might get a reason as to why Travolta (who, get this, plays a beach stud named Strip!)is attracted to older women (particularly someone like Lily Tomlin). How about one small scene where we see him on a date with a girl his own age and he can't relate to her? With that we could understand his desires but here it's just plot device to move things along.
The whole movie runs on empty. Tomlin (who has since come out of the closet and admitted director Wagner is her longtime companion) is hopelessly miscast. She may be older but she sure didn't fit the bill for what a young man looks for in an older woman. They could have put some make-up or seductive clothing on her to try and at least create the illusion of the sexy woman but perhaps Wagner's intent was to show the normal everyday woman. I hate to tell you this Jane but people don't buy it when a normal, everyday woman is seduced by a beach stud named Strip.
"Moment By Moment" has long been forgotten and rightfully so. It's set up is preposterous, dialogue is laughable, and the acting is downright horrible. It's so bad it almost makes "Battlefield Earth" look not so bad. Skip this junk and thank me in the morning.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Ten to Midnight" is an exceedingly well made thriller that blows it.
The problems are many but let's get the basic story out of the way
Charles Bronson stars as a hardened cop (how original) with a new rookie partner (Andrew Stevens) out to track a serial killer. The killer finds people, strips naked and then does his deeds in bloody detail. Bronson is convinced he knows who the killer is, plants evidence against him, and when the deed is discovered the killer is released and, well, you just know Bronson's daughter (Lisa Eilbacher) had better watch out.
Of the MANY problems I have with the film here are some I couldn't overcome. Director J.Lee Thompson makes a mistake after the first set of brutal killings. As Hitchcock believed you hit the audience hard with an act of brutal violence so the audience is on edge the rest of the film. You don't need to show anything more because the minds of the audience will imagine things far worse. Thompson does not adhere to this. With each scene of a murder the violence gets more brutal. There is no reason for having to see a girl stabbed in the shower after having seen similar acts of violence earlier. One other bit that always bothered me. One of the early victims is a child to a friend of Bronson's. Bronson has the thankless task of going to tell the friend their daughter is dead. We see him walk up to the house and go in but then director Thompson cuts away to Bronson walking out. Why? We should see this as it gives Bronson motivation for his actions later on. If it was an editing decision it was a terrible one.
Another problem I had is the performance of Gene Davis as the killer. This is, far and away, the worst in the film and it undermines the power of the character. Davis spends most of the movie yelling and when he isn't he is as wooden as a two by four. It's hard to believe he is as clever as he was written.
Lastly, I have to describe the ludicrous final chase. Bronson has discovered the killer is after his daughter. He races to her dorm room to discover that she is gone and the killer has her. They cut to the killer and the daughter who have at least a five minute head start but sure enough Bronson, on foot, not only catches up but has gotten ahead of them. Try to hold a straight face folks because I saw it and I still don't believe it.
"10 To Midnight" had a lot of potential but the director ended up going for the gore which, I imagine, is what he thought the core audience wanted. The script is not badly written but could have used another trip through the typewriter. It's a typical Bronson thriller when it should have been so much more.
Lastly, does anyone know what the title means? It's certainly not the time of night when the killer strikes (at least not in every case). Just wondering.
I was never a big Charles Bronson fan. His movies usually followed the
same predictable patterns of revenge and violence with Bronson usually
coming off dry and stiff. His performances were usually always one
Of the few films of his I have enjoyed (see also "The Mechanic" and "Hard Times") from that era, "Telefon is a surprisingly gripping thriller even though the story is downright silly at times. Bronson plays (and doesn't even begin to resemble) a KGB agent out to track a killer who have been brainwashed. One call from this guy and the reciting of some lines from a Frost poem and that person is hypnotized into going out and committing an act of violence that resembles terrorism in many cases. Donald Pleasance convincingly plays the bad guy and that, I think, is what makes the movie work. Pleasance is credible in the role, thus we fear him and route for Bronson to catch him. Also on hand is Lee Remick as an American agent assigned to help Bronson but who also has a hidden agenda of her own.
Director Don Seigel handles the silly material in a straightforward manner never taking things too seriously. Bronson is less stiff then usual and the action scenes are well done. The ending is a bit abrupt but that is minor nit picking. It's a silly thriller I enjoyed and, if you are a Bronson fan, I am sure you will enjoy it too.
"Eyes of Laura Mars" is a disturbingly violent geek show of a movie.
Laura is a kinky fashion photographer who starts getting visions of
brutal, violent murders as they occur. So when she sees them we get to
see them to through the eyes of the killer. Instead of the old
Hitchcock standby of making the first murder violent and then keeping
the audience on edge the rest of the film without showing much of
anything, this films murders get worse and worse. It's disgusting
without being the least bit stylish.
Faye Dunaway makes her first film appearance after winning the Oscar for Network here and for the life of me I cannot figure out why she would have taken the part on. Perhaps the original spec script called "Eyes" by John Carpenter was something other then this. Or, and most likely this is the case, she got a huge payday as Oscar winners do and took the money and ran. She looks great but the character is one dimensional and she gapes and gasps and cries a lot. At some point you just want someone to slug her.
The supporting cast is headed by Tommy Lee Jones as the lead detective on the murder cases. Jones is passable but his character is dumb. He makes decisions that a good detective wouldn't make. Brad Dourif began his string of eccentric characters as one of Laura's assistants. Gee do you think he will be a suspect in the murders? As far as the "mystery" goes there really isn't much of one. If you pay any attention to the film the identity of the killer is easy to figure out within the first 30 minutes of the movie. Unfortunately we then have to sit through another 60 minutes of blood, gore and violence waiting to get to its predictable conclusion. "Eyes of Laura Mars" is not a pretty film to watch.
I have always been curious as to how so many big name stars came to
agree to appear in "The Betsy". Was Harold Robbins' name alone enough
for them to believe they were starring in a hit? Perhaps they all were
paid handsomely. I hope it's the latter. As you might expect with
Harold Robbins' name on the title "The Betsy" is about sex and greed
and sex and power and sex and murder and sex. This is pure trash all
the way but if you don't take it seriously and catch yourself in a
goofy mood then you might enjoy it.
The story is simple. A family headed by patriarch Laurence Olivier manufacture cars and become wealthy and powerful. That's all you really need to know. This family is one sick group. Take for example one scene early on in the movie. A boy (who would grow up to be Robert Duvall) witnesses his father committing suicide. He runs upstairs to be with his mom (Katherine Ross) only to find her in bed shagging grandpa Olivier. All in a matter of moments for this poor kid. And yet he still grows up and goes to work for Olivier. You can't take the story seriously for a second.
Also on hand are Tommy Lee Jones as a stud race car driver and the beautiful Lesley-Anne Down as his mistress who happens to be Duvall's wife. She is sexy and alluring and almost worth the price of admission. And then there is Duvall's granddaughter who seduces Jones on her 18th birthday. The Carrington family from "Dynasty" almost seem normal next to this clan.
Trash movie lovers unite. This is a film for you. It's somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me but I still sit there and shake my head at many scenes more then just enjoying the garbage being presented.
"The Jazz Singer" was a bomb dropped on the movie world at Christmas in
1980. It's a needless remake to an original movie that has already been
remade and wasn't that great in the first place. Had it not been the
first movie with sound I don't think many people would remember it.
The storyline has been updated so the cantor's son is now off to the music field, particularly rock. Now I ask you if you could get an actor to star in your big Christmas movie which is a remake of a famous film, would Neil Diamond head the list? Or perhaps every actor with a brain read the script and turned it down. Let's face it folks - Diamond is a terrible actor. Yes he has a great voice and the songs are the only worthy thing in it. You know things are going to go all wrong from the first scene when Diamond dons black face. Was this an ode to the Al Jolson scene from the original or a stupid, misplaced piece of humor? Either way the scene goes terribly wrong and you end up feeling uncomfortable watching it.
The great Laurence Olivier reached a career low as the role of Diamond's distressed father. As he did in "Marathon Man" and "Dracula" and "The Boys From Brazil" Olivier over emphasizes a bad accent and spends most of his time yelling. When he cries "I Hef No Son" the result is unintended laughter. It's a bad performance by a great actor. Surprisingly it is Lucie Arnaz (Desi and Lucy's daughter) who gives the one good performance as Diamond's tough but tortured love interest.
My suggestion to those Neil Diamond fans is to buy the soundtrack and forget the movie. It's silly and stupid and not worth a minute of your time. It was a bomb for a reason.
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