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One Of The Greatest Movie Experiences...
Go see GRINDHOUSE now.
It will be one of the best times you'll have in the theater.
PLANET TERROR is a blast, too long, but highly enjoyable for zombie fans. Terrific bits from Josh Brolin, To Savini and especially Jeff Fahey and Michael Biehn who get a chance to shine. Rose Mcgowan doesn't move me as an actress though she is hot. I dug Freddy Rodriguez as the diminutive action hero. Along with MACHETE, this is a perfect opening for GRINDHOUSE.
The trailers are a highlight, with Rob Zombie's being one of the coolest ideas but under executed. Edgar Wright's DON'T is perfect, a distillation of British 70's fright films (not Argento as some have claimed). Eli Roth, who I find awful, has a winner with THANKSGIVING, a perfect recreation of a terrible barely released 80's horror video.
After a fun food ad and those great title spots, we move onto DEATH PROOF. The movie starts just right with the awesome "The Last Ride" song used in VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS over apropos 70's credits. Then we get to the female stars and DEATH PROOF grinds the house to a halt. It's QT's worst dialogue and most forced characters. Just because we get to listen to shallow women talk for 30 minutes does not endear them to us. This huge miscalculation kills DEATH PROOF for a chunk of it's running time.
You're right to be bored by the interminable chat in DEATH PROOF -- the teen girls next to me loved it -- but there is a stupendous Kurt Russell performance buried there. He's reason enough to sit through GH. QT knows exactly how to write and direct a man like Russell, pity that he didn't stick with him. The dialogue between him and Mcgowan is good also.
but then you know what happens and we're back with another set of irritating female characters. zoe bell is spunky and a player, but their sex talk is no substitute for empathy and the endless VANISHING POINT references are awful. Still, the car crashes and chases are great, not the greatest, but it's cool to see the real deal and not CG bullshit.
Happily, DEATH PROOF does have a perfect ending.
This is a special film that may be the last of its kind. It's certainly already a cult classic no matter what it's b.o. fate. If you can get into the spirit, GRINDHOUSE is an absolutely perfect recreation of a fun Saturday night double feature and easily one of the best times i've ever had in a theater...
Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979)
Groundbreaking Indie Film
Shocked that there's only three pages of comments for the film widely considered to be one of the fathers of the modern indie film movement. John Saylees used his b-movie money from Roger Corman (the best scripts written for him) and financed this weekend home movie that became a hit and launched Sayle's film career.
Some of the bad reviews are really unfounded. This has some of the best dialog in American film, and though the performances are not all polished, it adds to the reality. There's a sense of genuine community not like the Hollywoodized "Big Chill."
If you stick with the film you'll be rewarded by many nifty scenes and conversations. Gordon Clapp is fun and there are beautifully observed moments of wit and drama. Mark Arnett is particularly good and the moment he recites his litany of protest arrests is great. The film-making is raw, but that's not the point.
However, the DVD version is actually missing a scene on the VHS of the hamburgers being grilled to some sort of rhythmic montage. Why?
Anyway, if you're a fan of great dialog, political commitment, and what can be done for 40 grand and terrific writing, check this classic out.
A Few Stellar Moments But Ultimately Flawed
It took me over 20 years (!) to finally watch this even tho it's my favorite Bradbury novel. The uber-researched cover story in Cinefantastique from 1983 told me too much about why the film would not work -- an amazing piece of movie journalism by the way, including shots of many discarded scenes, notably the computer animation segment with Dark's carnival arriving that was cut weeks before opening.
So I approached the DVD with head and heart open, hoping I would find a gem of 80's sinister cinema. There are some jewels here but far too much coal. Ultimately, the film never "flows" or hooks you into its narrative. While Jack Clayton is a fine director he was truly the wrong person for this film. His anti-literal horror sensibility does not mesh with a period piece of Halloween Americana that begs for visceral scares, just like in the novel.
However, Clayton excels in a few quiet scenes such as the sad distant attempt by Jason Robards to connect with his son on the steps. Filmed in a long master take, it's an almost Antonioni moment of filial separation. Shawn Carson is quite good here too, his cherubic face perfectly expressing his disinterest in his father's attempt at communication. Altho some here say Robards is only adequate, he's much more, filling his character with the longing of youth and regret.
Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark is the film's highlight, altho he should have been even more malevolent. Him and Robards both shine together in their only two scenes and when Robards stands up to Dark while his son hides beneath the sewer below, Clayton's direction is truly fine and harrowing.
As others have noted, the library confrontation is the film's dramatic high point as Dark tears away the pages of time, mocking Robards with angry flare. Had the narrative matched this moment, the film would have been all the better.
The side characters of the townspeople doesn't really work as they'r just sketched in. Compare them to the town folk in George Pal's wonderful Seven Faces of Dr. Lao to see how much better integrated they are. As for the circus folk, Pam Grier is a beautiful and effective Dust Witch, albeit underused.
It would be great if we could see Clayton's original cut, which was apparently too soft for the preview audience and Disney. This led to a 7 million dollar spfx make-over, which remains the worst element of the film. In place of a giant hand attacking the boys, we get spiders. Far too many shots are drowned in unconvincing optical effects. The computer train arrival was a brilliant conceit and tho it clearly would not have matched the live action, it could have been used as a shared nightmare of the boys. The green ectoplasm that follows them later is too cartoonish as is.
James Horner's music is not effective at all, not ominous enough and too bombastic. I would love to hear the discarded Deluere score.
Overall, a film worth watching but not remembering. Except for what might have been...
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Underrated Moore Bond
Altho there's a lot of hate for this second Moore 007, I never understood it. For a change, most of the witty dialogue works well. I think it's one of Moore's best Bond performances.
So let's break it down: The Good: - Roger Moore is witty and action ready. His fight scene in the belly dancer's room is pretty good. Tough and violent. Don't know about that cigar, but it adds a little extra somethin'.
- Herve Villechieze as Knick Knack. Not threatening, but a fun memorable sidekick with lots of playful malevolence. I love it when he shushes Bond.
- Christopher Lee. Nuff said, tho they didn't build up this character to the level they could have. Where are those deleted scenes between him and Moore (from the trailer and photos)that obviously exist?
- John Barry. Yes, Lulu's song is ridiculous. Still, I love the brassy music and this is one of Barry's most memorable catchy Bond scores. Especially during the karate scenes and the jazzy swing of Scaramenga's fun parlor.
- Kung fu. The Bond films always lucked out when it came to latching onto the culture of the day. 1974 was the height of kung fu exploitation and Bond was there. Still have BLACK BELT magazine featuring this on the cover...
The Bad: - Miss Goodnight. Giving Bond a ditzy helper...well, bad night.
- Lack of compelling plot. The energy cell and Scaramanga are too loosely tied together and the film shouldn't have tried to pull a Blofeld at the end.
- Production design. Ken Adams is sorely missing here. And what's with that ONE GUARD in the massive solar laser set? Missed opportunity there.
The Ugly: - JW Pepper.
- Slide whistle.
I Love DICK -- Genuinely Witty and Clever Gem
Even tho I'm a Watergate buff, I didn't see this in summer of 1999. I wish I had. Pity the marketing department for this smart and clever deconstruction of what exactly happened to all those president's men in 1972 via the bumbling of two teen girls, expertly played by kirsten dunst and michelle williams.
No need to recount the plot suffice to say that this film could only die at the box office since the youth market would not have appreciated this satire without knowing a chunk of the Watergate mythos. Marketed as a an indie type feature might have worked better.
Fleming directs with stylish simplicity and captures a retro-extreme look. Special mention to Dan Hedaya for one of the great film Nixons. The supporting cat is tight if not completely realized, the worst being Will Ferrell and Bruce Mcoullough who would have been funnier if not allowed to mug like an SNL outtake.
Take a chance and rent this if you're looking for what surely is one of the best comedies of the 90's. And a great, non obvious soundtrack.
P.S. The DVD commentary by Andrew Fleming and the co-writer makes them sound less bright than the film. There's no mention of what made them write it, the casting directing process etc. It's amazing they could have so little to say about their film.
So I will. Check it out.
The Living Daylights (1987)
After GOLDFINGER, OHMSS...the best Bond film. Period.
After the flakey, joke-filled mess of Roger Moore's uneven films, true 007 fans were rewarded with THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, a complete change in tone and tenor that honors Ian Fleming's James Bond with the actor who most resembles the book's hero: Timothy Dalton.
I saw TLD opening day and was thrilled through the whole movie, from the fantastic dolly shot of Dalton's first appearance; the tough brutal fight scenes (probably the best in the series); the beautiful recreation of the original short story in the opening scenes (particularly Bond's disgust at shooting somebody into "strawberry jam"); the mix of genuine politics and espionage; John Glen's sturdy intense direction; John Barry's last (and effective) score; the unforced romance between Bond and Kira that's the most successful since OHMSS; the incredible battle from the airplane net; the care given to minor characters (note that bad ass kitchen fight between Necros and the unnamed agent); and with Dalton leading the way, probably the best ensemble acting in a Bond film.
I felt a little sad opening day after the film, for as much as I loved the attempt to finally show us the novel 007, I knew that general audiences would not warm to Dalton, who was too serious to deliver the pre-requisite puns audiences favored over character.
Still, Eon should be proud for attempting a complex assassin and Dalton's Bond will go down in history as the truest.
I mean, just look at that shot of him after he's stashed Jeron Krabbe (btw, a terrific performance despite the complaints here that he's too nice -- not when he gets into that Russian uniform)in the boot of the car and his incompetent partner asks him where he is -- Dalton gives him a deadly look that is pure Connery/Bond.
The Time Machine (1960)
A Science Fantasy Classic...After All These Years
While certainly avoiding most of H.G. Wells themes, nonetheless George Pal produced and directed one of the finest American science fiction films.
Rod Taylor is very sympathetic and passionate, a Victorian liberal scientist, as the man who tries to save the future by teaching the apathetic Elio how to become human again. Yvette Mimiuex is pretty, apropos vacant but comes alive at the end.
Altho some here claim the effects are dated, they are wrong. The effects are terrific and filled with a personal uniqueness unknown in this age of cookie-cutter CGI. Gene Warren and Wah Chang deliver visual wonders like the fantastic roof window view of history exploding, not to mention the amazing stone head outside the Morlock's lair and the great gory shot where the Morlock disintegrates into time.
Film is filled with lovely human moments, such as Alan Young (a superior performance) questioning George's intentions with time; the Eloi finally standing up against the Morlocks; and Alan Young putting together what really happened to his friend at the climax, ably lifted by the wistful score.
Watch it as a kid or with kid eyes. Better still, double feature it with Pal's more wonderful 7 FACES OF DR LAO.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)
An Absolute Mess -- But Fun
I wish I could agree with the more heartfelt recomendations from others here. If I watch this as a big budget Hammer film, it kinda works. But for the talent involved, it's poorly directed, edited, over-acted and generally unpleasant to watch.
How can you not laugh aloud at the hairy chested close-ups Branagh gives himself? The birth scene is ridiculous and the endless jump cuts as Branagh tries to manhandle Deniro's bloody naked body...laugh out funny. And I'm a fan of KB's work. But this humorless and jumbled attempt at gussing up the original is a missed opportunity. Deniro does as good as can be expected under the uninspiring stitched make up, but he's still Bobby Deniro as The Monster. Why not stick to Mary Shelly's story? Respect it like bad Shakespeare.
There's some good casting bits, but the look of the film isn't cohesive and the endlessly gliding camera can't cover up the dull staging.
Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
One Of The Great Cult Films Of The 70's
I've grown up seeing the striking record album in stores, but never saw the film until the early 90's on the bad pan and scan VHS. even then, the film had a powerful effect.
although it's hard to ever fully see robert blake and not think of his trial this film reminds you of when he was almost a movie star.
the direction is striking and unique and of course conrad hall's cinematography is dazzling.
while the film's tone is typical 70's all over the place, that's what I miss about that golden age. each scene is like its own movie.
and yes, one of the great final shots in American film history.
Day of the Dead (1985)
I saw this on opening day in 1985 and enjoyed it as a nifty addition to the series although it doesn't really wrap it up. Even shot on a low 3 million budget, the film looks great with some of Romero's tightest direction. The claustrophobia enhances the fear and dread in this underworld of the dead.
I enjoyed the cast and characters, their crazed debates and sense of general madness, especially the lone woman dynamic. The film isn't as dark as it may seem and there's plenty of humor given the subject. You get the EC comic spirit of the film after a severed head's eyes dart around as a bat flies away in the bg.
Of course, Tom Savini is one of the real stars as his outstanding graphic make-up is even better than Dawn. Special props to the great zombie Bub and Joe Pilato's out of control military man. It's a special kind of movie performance and he runs with it until his utterly perfect comeuppance. Hint: it involves flesh-eating zombies.
Strange that this is considered a "flop" as a 3 million dollar film making 35 million worldwide in 1985 is hardly a flop. While lacking the consumer satire of Dawn, DOTD presents a fascinating look at a societal breakdown.
Oh yeah, and cool zombies getting torn apart a dozen different ways.