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I've been a fan of movies my entire life and I enjoy watching as many as I can. I grew up watching horror movies so that's where my first love is but I enjoy each and every genre from all years. I love watching silent movies and the history buff in me loves watching those old Edison shorts from the 1890s-1910s.
I'm not at this site to become a famous writer but what I love most about IMDB is how there are so many reviews, by so many film buffs and everyone has their own way to do things. I love hearing others opinions so the different styles just adds to the fun.
I prefer capsule reviews myself so no one should expect any long, detailed, Roger Ebert type of reviews.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Fun Popcorn Movie
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
*** (out of 4)
American trucker Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) takes a friend (Dennis Dun) to the airport to pick up his fiancé who is arriving from China. Soon the woman is kidnapped by a ruthless gang so Burton and his friend follows them to Chinatown where they end up getting in over their head against a magical creature.
If there's a serious bone in your body then it's best to take it out before watching John Carpenter's BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA because there's really nothing here to take serious. Even the plot is downright crazy and all over the place but I'm pretty sure that was the point. This is pretty much a "B" movie that features an All-American "macho" image mixed with magic, monsters and of course martial arts. This film certainly isn't a masterpiece or anywhere near the best work from Carpenter and Russell but at the same time it's easy to just sit back, eat some popcorn and enjoy the madness in front of you.
I think the funniest thing about the movie is the fact that it doesn't take itself serious. I'm sure a lot of people would have gone for a R-rated movie full of over-the-top violence, gore and a lot of cussing but that's not what you're going to find here. What the film is is basically a comic book brought to life where the lead character proudly announces his American and the film also shows the Chinese characters in the best possible fashion. I really liked how the two cultures are brought together and everything else that follows is just fun. The film contains some great cinematography from Dean Cundey and the music score by Carpenter and Alan Howarth is also fun. The make-up effects are what you'd expect from this era in the 80s but they add to the fun.
The performances are another plus with Russell really having a good time in the role. While the character isn't nearly as memorable as the ones he played in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK or THE THING, it's still a nice character and Russell is certainly believable in the role. Dun is fun in the role of the friend and there's no doubt that Victor Wong always adds charm to a film. Then there's Kim Cattrall who is a lot of fun as the love interest and James Hong makes for a good villain. A lot of people have complained that everyone is campy or over-the-top but I'm pretty sure this was done on purpose by the director and I think it works.
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA certainly isn't a classic but it's a fun little "B" movie that was made for a giant soda and a large popcorn.
The Curtain Pole (1909)
The Start of the Chase
The Curtain Pole (1909)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Screwball comedy from D.W. Griffith has a fool (Mack Sennett) trying to help hang a curtain pole but of course he ends up breaking it. The man then sets out to redeem himself by getting a new pole but of course this doesn't turn out to be an easy job.
THE CURTAIN POLE certainly isn't one of the director's best shorts at Biograph but there are enough interesting things in it to make it worth viewing. The most interesting thing is of course Sennett who was getting to be an actor here, years before turning to producing and directing. For the most part he does a nice job in the role but the highlights are the cinematography that perfectly captures the various madness that happens. Griffith's direction is another major plus because there really weren't too many examples of the "chase" film and there's an extremely long one here, which obviously Sennett would use years later in his Keystone films. The case sequence doesn't contain a great number of laughs but it's certainly put together extremely well.
Don Quijote de Orson Welles (1992)
An Experiment That Doesn't Always Work
Don Quixote (1992)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
After reading about exciting lives involving knights and other creations, a man takes on the name of Don Quixote (Francisco Reiguera) and gets a sidekick in Sancho Panza (Akim Tamiroff) and the two head off to fight the evils but Quixote soon finds out that's not so easy in an ever changing world.
If you know anything about Orson Welles then you know that DON QUIXOTE was one of his dream projects. If you know anything about the history of this film then you already know what a production nightmare it was. If you happen to be reading this without knowing the film's history then it's best that you actually go out and read about it. There are many great, very detailed articles and books out there but the short version is that this began life as a TV project but Welles decided to turn it into a feature but there were countless production problems and what began shooting in 1957 wasn't even complete in 1969 when the lead actor died. After countless legal battle, Jess Franco was able to get the job as editor and put together the current version that is out there now but the debate goes on from this as his version features footage that Welles didn't shoot and there's still a lot of missing footage that couldn't be used due to legal issues.
A lot of the hatred for this "film" went in the direction of Franco, which just wasn't fair. If you read about the production and legal issues with this film then it's really hard to blame anyone except for Welles and especially when you considered that he just kept shooting new stuff for nearly a decade and he kept running into more and more problems. It certainly wasn't Franco's fault that Welles didn't really have a narrative for the film and it's not Franco's fault that there were legal issues that prevented all of Welles' footage from being included. However, with that said, what's here is mildly entertaining in its own surreal way.
I say that because there's all sorts of footage here that more times than not doesn't make sense. The film was shot silent with the plan of adding narration and dialogue at a later time. Some of the narration was done by Welles himself but some of it he didn't record so another person had to pretend to be Welles and add it rather obviously. The two main performances were rather interesting to say the least and throughout the various formats that the film is shot, there's something here that remains entertaining and it's just so surreal that you can't help but be drawn into it. At 115-minutes the film does run on a bit too much but perhaps Franco just wanted to get as much footage in as possible.
Having said that, you could have given this footage to twenty different directors and they probably would have turned in completely different versions. The bottom line is that there's some interesting and weird footage here but it's impossible to know what Welles would have done with it. His brilliant mind might have been able to take ten-years worth of footage and make better sense out of it. We'll just sadly never know because Welles was unable to edit his film and this is all we go. So, do we just let the film remain unreleased or do we try and edit something together to honor the filmmaker? I personally don't have a problem with this edit. If some day we get a new edit I will watch that too but it still won't be Welles' version, which is just never going to happen.
Touching Short from Welles
The Spirit of Charles Lindbergh (1984)
*** (out of 4)
Orson Welles wrote, produced, directed and stars in this three-minute short film, which was probably never meant to be publicly viewed but after his death a lot of his material started to be released. In this three-minute short, Welles sits in his chair behind his typewriter where he sends a message out to his dying friend Bill Cronshaw. In the short, Welles reads a passage from the journal of Charles Lindbergh.
If you're a fan of Welles then you're certainly going to want to check this short out. Yes, there's nothing technically brilliant here and there's certainly nothing ground-breaking but this is a pretty entertaining film. Welles always looked terrific on the screen and just his eyes could draw you into whatever it was that he was doing. Here, he simply reads but you can just feel the energy and passion in that great voice of his. The film is short but certainly touching.
Too Much Johnson (1938)
Hard to Judge a Workprint
Too Much Johnson (1938)
Orson Welles shot this film three years before CITIZEN KANE and it was never publicly shown. Welles had a print of the film but when he died he believed the only copy had burned in a fire but much later another print did turn up. Currently this film is available in a 66-minute workprint version as well as an edited 34-minute version, which apparently contains intertitles. It's worth pointing out that Welles himself never edited his "version" of the film.
Since I just viewed the workprint there's really no point in "reviewing" the film because what I viewed was pretty much every bit of footage that remains of the movie. When this was shown on Turner Classic Movies they decided to show this version because, I'm guessing, it contained the most footage and I'm sure most Welles fans wanted to see everything that was shot. The story itself is pretty simple as a man (Edgar Barrier) learns that the woman he loves is seeing another man (Joseph Cotten). Throughout the film Barrier chases Cotten around trying to catch him.
This was shot silent and was obviously a homage to the likes of Keystone and especially Harold Lloyd. Fans of the silent cinema will certainly want to watch this but those expecting to see something here that would predict the talent of Welles would eventually make something like CITIZEN KANE are going to be disappointed. Again, it's impossible to really judge a workprint but there are a few interesting things scattered throughout but I personally didn't see anything that would show early greatness from the director.
I thought the performances were quite good and especially Cotten who really does look like a silent film star. He manages to run around, climb buildings and fall over is a very believable and at times funny manor that really reminds you of some of the silent greats. The Lloyd influence is obvious. The film contains some good cinematography but without any intertitles it's really hard to follow the story. Perhaps the shorter, edited version takes care of this. As is, TOO MUCH JOHNSON is a film that Welles fans will want to watch but if you're unfamiliar with the genius then it would be best to start somewhere else first.
Robert Osborne's 20th Anniversary Tribute (2015)
*** (out of 4)
This nice tribute to Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne was filmed at the 2014 TCM festival and featured his family and friends including Alec Baldwin, Eva Marie Saint, Diane Baker, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Ben Mankiewicz and Alex Trebek playing host. This 45-minute special starts off with Osborne thinking he's just doing a Q&A but soon the guests start coming out and sharing their fondest memories of the host. If you're a fan of Turner Classic Movies then you're certainly going to enjoy these tributes, although I must say that I was a little disappointed that none of the Q&A session was included. He gets asked some great questions but we then never get to hear the answers. That there is just a minor complaint but overall this is a nice little tribute and we even get some funny bloopers.
Boring Promotional Piece
Hobb Springs: A Place to Rest... In Peace (2014)
** (out of 4)
Standard promotional piece talks about the making of WRONG TURN 6. We hear from the majority of the main actors as well as the director as they talk about how different this movie is going to be from the previous five. We're told that WRONG TURN 6 is going to be more character driven and is going for suspense instead of actual gore and shock value. Umm....I guess something changed after this promotional piece was filmed because they ended up delivering the worst movie in the series. At just 7-minutes there's certainly nothing bad here but at the same time it's pretty boring. Everyone of these films got special features on their release but this one here really doesn't give us any good views as to how the movie was made and instead we just hear about things that they're going to do but of course none of them really translated to the actual film.
The Kills of Wrong Turn
All The Kills in Them Hills (2014)
*** (out of 4)
Horror fans will enjoy this promotional piece that can be found on the WRONG TURN 6 release. This featurette is pretty much a game that shows you every death scene from the series and counts them as they go from one movie to the next. I guess you're supposed to guess which one has the most kills as there is a winner revealed at the end (which I won't spoil here). If you've seen those old Friday THE 13TH trailers that would count down the kills, that's pretty much what you're getting here. We see the victims, get their number and then we see the aftermath of their death. Again, there's certainly nothing ground-breaking here but I think fans will enjoy revisiting all the death scenes and quite honestly I'm a little surprised that more companies haven't tried something like this. Obviously there are spoilers so you'll want to watch the films first.
Son of Dracula (1943)
Wonderful Atmosphere and Cinematography
Son of Dracula (1943)
*** (out of 4)
Some locals become concerned when the Hungarian Count Alucard (Lon Chaney, Jr.) relocates to the Southern swamps and soon a dead body shows up with bite marks. Soon Doctor Brewster (Frank Craven) calls upon a Professor Lazlo (J. Edward Bromberg) who believes that Alucard is actually Count Dracula who has set his eyes on a local woman (Louise Allbritton).
SON OF Dracula has fanboys constantly fighting about the true identity of the lead vampire. Is it really Dracula's son? Is it perhaps a new vampire? It it really not Dracula's son and Universal just had to say it was because COUNT ALUCARD, as a title, wouldn't draw people in? I've avoided those back-and-forth debates and I'm certainly not going to say anything other than the title states he is the son of Dracula and that's good enough to me. Throughout all the debates, the film itself has been overlooked because it's actually an extremely well-made little horror film that has some wonderful cinematography, some great performances and a nice and eerie score.
I think the greatest thing about the film is its look. You can tell that this film was inspired by the German horror classics from the silent era and it takes the atmosphere that was in films like Dracula'S DAUGHTER and tries to bump it up to another level. There's plenty of fog floating around the swamp and this Southern location really adds a lot to the atmosphere. Another major plus is the terrific cinematography, which gives us some terrific and highly memorable shots. These include Dracula floating across the water to the woman waiting for him and another excellent sequence on the stairs where Dracula finds someone in the basement.
I also really enjoyed the cast with one minor exception, which again has been debated to death by horror fans. As far as Chaney goes, I thought he gave a good performance but at the same time he just wasn't right for the part. The romantic, mysterious nature that is supposed to be Dracula really isn't brought out by Chaney and I think the actor works best when his character requires sympathy, which Dracula doesn't. The supporting cast is excellent with Allbritton and Evelyn Ankers both very good in their supporting roles. I also really enjoyed Craven who certainly carries the majority of the film but Samuel S. Hinds is also good in his role as the Judge. Pretty much all of the supporting players nail their parts.
SON OF Dracula does have a few slow moments throughout the picture but it's certainly another winner for the studio. It's easy to see why Chaney didn't continue playing this role but it did go into better hands with John Carradine taking over for the two HOUSE pictures.
Signal to Noise: Atari: Game Over (2014)
Fun Documentary on the Legendary E.T.
Atari: Game Over (2014)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Entertaining documentary from director Zac Penn about the fall of Atari and how many people blamed the disaster sales of the video game E.T.. The documentary talks about the rise of Atari and of course it's fall from grace as well as goes into details about the making of the video game based on the Steven Spielberg movie. We also get current footage of them digging up a landfill where legend has it contains millions of copies of the game that didn't sell.
The term video game nerd is used several times throughout this documentary but you certainly don't have to be one in order to enjoy this film, which is without question a fun little gem that makes you realize how the truth is often very far from the legend. We're told about the history of this video and we get interviews with video game experts as well as the man who designed the game. They discuss what kind of pressure was on for it to be released by Christmas and why something just went wrong along the way.
If you're a fan of video games or familiar with the legend of the E.T. game then you're really going to love what's offered here but I think those unfamiliar with the legend will probably enjoy it even more because it's just fascinating to think that one video game brought down a billion dollar industry. Of course, the truth is eventually revealed. Video nerd or not, this is a very entertaining documentary that's worth watching.