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A More Adept Cobbler Is Needed For This Melodrama That Substitutes Continuing Action For A Plot.
This ineptly plotted yet quite well-produced piece, having an alternate title of "TRAPPED!", suffers from some extreme cutting that eliminates entire scenes of narrative importance, as well as performers such as Barbara Bain, eventually settling into a weakly directed and purported suspense film set in the San Diego, California area. In reality, it was shot within the Turks and Caicos Islands, notably upon Grand Turk, a very scenic site indeed, but not at all resembling San Diego and its environs. Alexandra Paul leads the cast as computer expert Samantha, who is kidnapped, along with her teenage daughter, both subsequently kept captive at the mercy of a poorly defined band of terrorists whose ultimate purpose is not made clear, but who are obviously true to an ideology, and who threaten the captured women with death if Samantha does not complete some computer function that will result in the demise of a prominent dignitary. Notwithstanding the film's arresting scenery, its storyline is routine and very predictable, from its initial pages. A quaint choice of casting places Nick Turturro, with his firmly embedded Queens accent, in the role of a Southern California deputy sheriff. Dennis Christopher is a standout as head of the unidentified Forces of Evil. Paul is clearly in need of closer direction, not available here.
White Legion (1936)
Muddled Direction Results In A Work Of Notably Poor Order.
Alpha Video provides a valuable service for cinéastes through its fresh release of vintage films. However, as these are not remastered, not all are in good condition, some having soured over time. Nonetheless, Alpha offers new art work, as well as informative liner notes for these films, despite their ofttimes sub-par audio and visual quality. The history of the Panama Canal's construction supplies the background for this film. Following the fruitless efforts of France to complete the project, that was broken off due to the deaths, from yellow fever, of tens of thousands of imported contract laborers, an exceptional medical team, under U.S. leadership, isolated, and then destroyed the disease's carrier, the common mosquito. One-time matinée idol Ian Keith is cast as leader of the research team, an internationally flavoured collection of not inconsiderable scientific expertise. However, a large portion of his efforts are employed to show the way for available U.S. military personnel to coat local waters with oil as means of stymying mosquito movements, including breeding. Keith has the lead here, but merely walks through his turn with a dour performance. Slipping past him is the talented Tala Birell who is given the best passage of the film: when Keith's character tries to become more friendly with Birell's (Dr.Stern), he inquires "Dr. Stern! Is there a first name?" Her reply - "Doctor". Surely this is one of the most perfect squelches within the annals of cinema history. Gathering in the performing laurels here is veteran character actor Rollo Lloyd for a strongly defined Colonel, military commander of the Canal Zone's troops. He effectively handles a disturbance caused by unruly military personnel along with civilians who wish to avoid rules and regulations. Longwhile D. W. Griffith assistant Karl Brown is the director, with his efforts being undermined by his own screenplay, a disordered mixture composed of drama, action, romance and comedy. This makes for an unconvincing storyline, although the script is consistently handled throughout the affair. In sum, the film is denied that which it sorely needs, a secure hand at the helm, to highlight the drama within the story in order to outline the events of a fairly recent period (at the time of the work's release, only about 30 years prior); a missed opportunity, indeed!
Beyond Desire (1994)
A Mindless Affair In Accord With Its Overall Miserable Production Values, And No Point Of View.
It is difficult to find a copy of this film other than a VHS "screening cassette", involving a process that includes an introductory preview of the feature film itself, along with an audio free grouping of ostensible trailers for this thin narrative. Additionally, the words "screening cassette" and the name of the production company are permanently set in mid-frame. Just how this would beguile a viewer is difficult to imagine. Action opens as Greg Hagen (Frank Marty), a Miami area police department homicide detective, is being assigned to investigate the murder of a prominent prosecuting attorney. Hagen's investigation rather haphazardly leads him to a South Beach modeling studio stocked with nubile lasses, from one of whom Hagen seeks assistance with his search for the attorney's killer. This young woman, Danielle (Therese Marie Gutierrez) is very eager to become involved in the murder case, although her behaviour towards the handsome young detective is more amatory than one might expect to be proper while seeking a killer. During this same time, Hagen's detective work becomes secondary to his romantic proclivities. As a result, there is a plenitude of nude flesh thrashing about in varying beds, tedious to watch and altogether without a connection to the plot line function, but plainly enjoyable for the engaged cast members. These dreary scenes are accompanied by many repetitive numbers of D.J. scoring, very much less than tolerable when repeated throughout this movie. This is the sole recorded effort from director Joe Hernandez, who is also responsible for the producing and scripting credits in addition to a brief turn as a vacuously grinning "actor" of some sort. In sum, this is a lamentable work that few will struggle to sit through more than one time. Gutierrez adds to her role with an attempt at creating her character, but other performances are drab, thereby contributing to the raft of reasons why this movie is such a messily constructed, flatly handled, affair.
El año de la garrapata (2004)
A Dynamic Is Missing From A Film That Unwisely Settles Into A Trash Mode.
This initial feature film made by Galician director Jorge Coira is solidly anchored at the bottom of Coira's output, placed there by an inordinate shallowness of style and, notwithstanding some camera cleverness, a dreary emphasis upon usage of foul language by virtually the entire cast, not one of whom offers a winning performance, not unexpected in the event, due to the script's tired plotting, and less than effective characterization. The storyline revolves about the tedious actions of Fran (Félix Gómez) who has recently completed nine years of college study while having no clear concept of the career path that he wishes to follow. Although his fiancée Ana (Verónica Sánchez) has no difficulty with organizing his future as also do his parents with whom he resides and who point Fran toward a "business" occupation, against their son's fervent wishes. The Spanish word for "tick" is Granada and a viewer is apparently being expected to feel a dollop of sympathy for Fran during his attempts to achieve a tick-like or "slacker" lifestyle, as he sponges off his parents. Fran's closest support comes from his friend Morgan (Javier Veiga) who believes himself to be a sort of master slacker. The director apparently attempts to demonstrate, with only fair results, that Fran is some type of universal figure, but the plot line does not generate adequate enough interest to avoid its being classified as merely a banal melodrama. Additionally, Morgan's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as the piece progresses, putting paid to his previous sophistic rambling, during the film's first pages. It is clear that Coira is a skillful technician, but one who requires a more substantive tale to tell than this.
Finding Providence (2007)
From Its Very Beginning, There Is Hardly A Draggy Moment In A Film That Gains In Authority And Interest As It Moves Along.
This low budgeted work (reportedly $1300!) was shot in the Burlington, Vermont region, and with Vermont residents comprising the cast and crew. In spite of its minute funding, and an only slender opportunity for "live" audiences to view such an obscure film, clear profit is waiting for those who seek it, since the piece provides a substantial range of genre elaboration, including suspense, humour, and a good deal of romance. The plot revolves about Tom (Eric Ronis) whose girl friend Tabitha had disappeared ten years past. Tom has not been able to bring about a dismissal of his obsession with locating the missing girl, because of his belief that she is still alive, despite his ongoing visits to her cemetery marker in order to converse with her. A harder edge to the storyline results after another young girl disappears, and Tom with his best friend Curtis (Director Jayson Argento), both employees for a video rental store, strive to find her. During this time, as Tom and Curtis are seeking after the latest absent girl, Tom develops a romantic relationship with a local café waitress, Gwyneth (Logan Howe) who is bidding fair to make him forget Tabitha. The pair of amateur sleuths focuses their efforts upon an older man, Gluckman (James Reid) who has become withdrawn to an extreme, and they engage the efforts of other Burlington denizens for their searching. The work becomes an increasingly effective melodrama as it advances, largely through the efforts of Argento (pronounced ArGENto) who busily produces, scripts, directs, edits, and plays as co-lead, no easy matter for one who additionally is known to be an independent businessman as well as leader of a popular musical group. From its first pages, the work is well constructed, the entire cast providing believable performances. Argento's editing is fully as effective as any cinéaste might crave. In sum, this film is a veritable gem, its refinement belying its bleak coffers. It is released upon a DVD that offers very fine audio and visual quality.
Thunder Over Texas (1934)
Its Story Is Rather A Mishmash, But This Film's Historically Interesting Details Successfully Flies In The Face Of Any Sort Of Logic.
This is the first of five Western films that the soon-to-be-popular character actor Guinn "Big Boy" Williams completed with poverty row Beacon Productions, Williams here cast as Ted Wright, a two gun toting ranch owner who serves as the protector and surrogate father for child actress Helen Westcott making her film debut as "Tiny" after the latter becomes orphaned. He removes the endangered tyke to his home, although her continued existence is a threat to evil hearted land speculator Bruce Laird (Claude Payton) due to her somehow having in her possession several maps coveted by Laird that pinpoint the locations of planned railroad sites. This plot line will, however, be of merely ancillary interest for those viewers who will enjoy contemporary social references that cross through the story via popular entertainers and their songs, showcased by a trio of Wright's ranch hands, who seem fascinated by the programming that they listen to from their portable radio set. Ted Lewis ("Is Everybody Happy?"), Rudy Vallee, and Kate Smith are mentioned, and a pair of Ford Model As play a significant part in the enjoyable goings-on. One of a small number of U.S. film directors who, because of his stylistics, realistically deserves to be described as an auteur, Edgar Ullmer, helms the production here, as quaintly named Joen Warner, apparently to mislead Universal, the studio to which he was under contract. His wife of a later day, Sherle Castle (as Shirley Alexander), is responsible for the script. The title is a bit incongruous since no thunder can be heard, and the piece is filmed in California's Kern County rather than Texas. A good 35mm. print can be found in VHS format upon the VCI label. It is also produced (as is) by Alpha Video as a DVD.
Lords of the Barrio (2002)
Passages Of Brutality Are More Than Enough To Overcome Any Potential Narrative Strength.
This work, completed in 1995 but not distributed for seven years, was still too soon for some viewers. The storyline is set, and filmed, in the Cuban-American Miami/Hialeah region, and focuses upon the fortunes of freshly wed Rudy Canosa (Morris Perez) and his bride. Rudy foolishly decides to assume the identity of a severely wounded mobster who has subsequently died while hiding in Canosa's vehicle. In spite of the disapproval of his wife, Canosa takes possession of a half-million dollars of gun runner money left in the car by the expiring thug. Rudy's impersonation does not please one Dago (Robert Arevalo), although the script fails to provide a clear reason for the latter's involvement in the matter. Nonetheless, monies to the amount of $500,000 shall obviously prove to be an adequate amount to arouse Dago's concern. Canosa's tepid personality comes across as being far too feeble for him to serve as a viable challenger against the gangster, and he will have to toughen, or the lives of both Canosas may be in jeopardy. Characterization in the film is lacking, with Arevalo being granted free rein for some vicious treatment of his various foes. Joe Melendez, writer as well as director of the piece, is apparently multi-skilled, and it is reported that he has improved upon this, his first feature film. It is so to be hoped, as this affair, along with its generally poor quality, utilises the tired method of voice-over narration that fails to create much-needed suspense. Logic and continuity go begging while the acting and production values are below that level required to be either an artistic or financial success.
Bedroom Eyes (1984)
Highly Generic, And Lacking In Narrative Force, Resulting In An Essentially Clumsy And Dispirited Work.
This is a rather unpleasant and needlessly protracted suspenser wherein is to be found emphasis only upon sex instead of suspense. An attempt is made by director William Fruet to give a light tone to the film, but a surfeit of coarsened humour operates against the plot line from its inception. Stockbroker Harry Ross (Kenneth Gilman), following completion of his customary evening jogging session in Toronto, is seized by a voyeuristic urge to peek into an open window of a residence, at which time he observes a type of fetishistic sexual activity that may best be described as drab, but apparently of more than adequate interest for Ross to prod him into additional viewing during the following evening. On display for him during this follow-up observation is a probable murder although such an event is bereft of any details for Ross's excitable narration to his newly-established confidante, an attractive female psychiatrist, Alixe Barnes (Dayle Haddon). Meanwhile, a zealous crew of police detectives is searching after a suspect for the now confirmed killing, and their efforts give Ross no end of displeasure, since he was, after all, involved solely as a peeping tom. As the forces of law and order are floundering, they spend a great deal of time trailing the frightened Ross. Alixe tries to hypnotise Harry to determine the extent of his involvement, since she supports him as an innocent and believes that through hypnosis he can overcome the drawback of not having a credible reason for peering through the concerned window. A poorly constructed script infects a cast led by an ungainly Gilman whose acting range here is not devolved beyond an ever-present deer in headlamps appearance. Director Fruet has done much better work than this piece, in particular as a scenarist, but there is very little imaginative feeling to this film that can be recommended only if one has absolutely nothing else to view. Oddly, the work developed a following that eventually led to a sequel which, in any case, was not able to provide much of a successor plot or a form that could improve upon this silly movie.
A Modest And Somewhat Innocent Piece, Quite A Palatable Effort Of Its Kind, Easily Digested, And Promptly Forgotten.
Within the course of this solidly carpentered work, six colleagues of the film's protagonist, Professor Sims of Oxford (Arthur Howard, brother of Leslie) are murdered. These dire acts afford no complications for lighthearted Sims, as this is not a mystery story, but rather an international and mildly racy travelogue, with its focus upon European scenic beauty, and also upon a raft of partially undressed young women. These latter serve to classify the film as one among that briefly popular "nudie cutie" cinema phenomenon of 1959/60. Obviously straitened by a small budget, the picture's producers decided that attractive scenery of the film's many geographic locales was of more significance than a plot that is handicapped by thin writing and acting. Professor Sims fortunately retains possession of a pair of sunglasses that were willed to him by the initial murder victim, and he seldom misses an opportunity to scrutinise a pretty damsel through them, because the spectacles magically enable their wearer to ogle people beneath their clothing. The nudity seen therein is not what has become accepted as "explicit" (full-frontal), but the employment of what are obviously hand-held cameras throughout the film results in a mode of cinematic resolution that was lapped up by audiences of the period. Although most of the action is shot in black and white, the unclothed portions are seen through the use of vibrant coloured stock. This was originally issued in "3D", but the only spectacles required for viewers are those that vicariously rest upon the face of Professor Sims. The mentioned six homicides are lost amidst the resplendent scenic attractions of, respectively, Oxford, Berlin, Munich, Paris, Venice, and the French Riviera, with each site notable for its artificial energy, used here by Howard in an attempt to bolster wretched material. Finally, in spite of the diversity offered by appealing locations and ladies, and the mystifying nature of the sunglasses, we are left, with what shall be considered to many viewers a rather silly affair, and Howard at his silliest, a film wherein female beauty and captivating scenery cannot effectively substitute for a plot line.
Mi guo (2008)
A Fine Effort, Thanks To Its Picturesque Urban Setting, In Addition To A Well-Prepared Narrative
From the very beginning of this stylish Chinese film, directed by Yibai Zhang, viewers are made aware of a mystery. However, while interplay between the principal characters develops, a notion may be formed that the significance of this mystery might well have been reduced by effective role creation. As action opens, a taxicab careers through a bordering fence and into the Yang-Tze River. The body of the driver, Wu Tao (Erik Tsang) can not be located, but his passenger is rescued, a young prostitute, Su-Dan (Karen Mok), who has been maimed by the crash. Although Su-Dan has an unpleasant disposition, the driver's widow, Li (Jiang Wenli,) offers the girl an opportunity, being a woman of an entirely different nature from that of Su-Dan, to share the home that she now keeps for her teenage son, as a type of moral obligation. The plot line exposes some unexpected facts about the characters in order for a viewer to solve the mentioned mystery, but most will not come readily to a decision, because of an increasingly trenchant development of several back stories that may or may not aid at finding a solution of the puzzle surrounding the crash. Due to rather opaque Chinese censorship issues, the work's premiere, scheduled twice to be shown in Hong Kong, where it was each time denied permission to screen, was instead initially offered at New York City's Tribeca Festival in 2008, receiving accolades. In truth, there is here more than enough substance within the narrative to garner the attention of most viewers. Dour bits of melodrama are customary elements for the films of Zhang, who goes in for stylistic methods that are of a piece with his camera technique steeped in symbolism. Cinematographer Wang Yu was furnished an ideal setting within the Central Chinese metropolis of Chungquing ("City of Fog") where its industrial riverscape provides an ideal backdrop for the director's masterful long shots, and fondness for ideographic imagery. Zhang's use of magic realism involving a framed photograph of the missing Wu Tao, placed upon the wall of his former residence, is certainly not the most engagingly subtle effort from the film's writer, Zhao Tianyu, but the remarkably lean dialogue and solidly constructed score have overlaid most flaws within this film that is superior to a majority of Chinese issued cinematic pieces.