Reviews written by registered user
|52 reviews in total|
As I recall this program, it was very simple and straightforward. James Mason, his wife Pamela and Richard Burton were in a library. They moved around between tables piled with books, went to various shelves and pulled books out and generally acted as if they were highly literate individuals enjoying displaying their love of good writing. Once they had selected a book they would read a selection from it and make a few comments. Then, the other two would repeat this process in turn. In this way they would pass an enjoyable half hour sharing the company of friends and allowing the viewers to feel as if they had spent time with their intellectual superiors and had been elevated in the process. This was at a time when people still felt that leisurely, intellectual intercourse was a good, in and of itself. No one was in a hurry to dash off a short, meaningless spurt of characters. One was allowed time to sit and think and take pleasure in the sound of a well turned phase. I'm sure some could level charges of pomposity and elitism, but if they didn't like it, they didn't have to watch it.
The bad boy hero goes back to the beginnings of literature. In Hollywood it grew most directly out of the film noir school of the forties. In the early days of TV overly sweet and sappy rom-coms were the norm, along with westerns, but somebody had a taste for noir, and so "China Smith" was born. And what baddest, bad boy hero was there but Dan Duryea? He could play a strong, bold villain, he could play a weak, cowardly villain. He could be a nice, honorable guy. He could be a rat. China Smith was all of those. Rod Taylor always wanted to be an action hero with a brain, and so he tried to imitate China Smith in his series "Hong Kong", but it didn't have the grittiness. Sure, the sets were poorly made and the lighting was murky. Duryea was the most talented actor in the series, but he more than made up for the other's failings. Those of us who followed it faithfully in the early, dim days of television knew it was hokum, but we loved it nonetheless.
It seemed as if the primary emphasis of this movie was to demonstrate the 3-D aspects. There were objects, cats, rabbits and other characters constantly plummeting into the audience's faces. The storyline was simplistic and the characterizations even more so. While the artwork was overall professional, it suffered from its being made subservient to the aforementioned third dimension chaos. Even though it was set in Massachusetts, it was made in Europe, Belgium to be specific, and perhaps because of the euro orientation of its creators, it contains certain elements that some Americans might find offensive, i.e. cultural stereotypes. As I said, it's a child's movie, although I hate to think of anyone intentionally making a stupid movie for a child.
Many years ago, when I was still in college, I worked nights and went to school in the daylight hours. My off nights I usually spent watching junk movies on late night television. I learned that there is a hierarchy of junk movies ranging from poor quality junk to high quality junk. The genre didn't seem to matter. They could be drama, comedy, horror, SF, cowboy, you-name-it. This film, Battle of the Dead, is definitely in the high quality junk category. In fact, I even hesitate to call it junk. I only do so because it meets many of the criteria. It was made by non-mainstream film makers, way, way outside of Hollywood or western Europe. The actors are people you've never seen or heard of before. It stars Dolph Lundgren. Now, I have seen Lundgren turn in good performances, given the right material and decent direction, but by and large, he has made film choices based on making the money and getting out quickly. It may very well be that that's why he chose to do this film, but if so, he was scammed into making a film with an interesting concept, a sufficiently competent and professional script and crew, and a director with some imagination. This film, on the surface, sounds like junk. It's a zombie movie with killer robot soldiers. Then, after you find out they are not really zombies, and therefore can be put down rather easily, and the robots usually kill only when they have good reason, you begin to realize that a certain amount of thought has gone into this project. Granted the characters are pretty two-dimensional and the reasons behind why everything is happening are only lightly sketched in, but the action moves right along, there are a number of interesting visuals, and the film is for the most part believable, if you accept certain basic science fiction tenets that run through most post-apocalyptic films. One last word about Dolph Lundgren. He doesn't do much more than stand around and look menacing, but that's why he was hired, and he does the best with what he was given. Basically, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This was originally a stage show that toured the United States back in the late seventies in an attempt to play on the nostalgia of people who who could just barely remember burlesque, or at least saw some of the old-time burlesque type acts on the Ed Sullivan show. It had some success and HBO decided to capture it on film. It was simply a filmed stage show, but for what it was supposed to be, it was pretty good. There were some songs and dances. There was some slapstick comedy. There were some baggy-pants comedians trading quips, a little off-color humor, and oggling of half naked girls. It was pretty much innocent with an occasional leer. It's fun to watch if you have a taste for old-fashioned humor, or are interested in a type of entertainment that no longer is in style.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film A Bunch of Amateurs, directed by Andy Cadiff, and staring Burt Reynolds was filmed in 2007 when Mr. Reynolds was 71 years old. The basic concept of using an aging action star to play an aging action star who steps outside of his formulaic career path to play Shakespeare's King Lear is the first clever idea in a series of clever ideas. Actually, Reynolds' character, Jefferson Steel is more than an aging star. He is a burned-out star, a has-been. He is tricked by his even more aged and broken down agent, played with gusto by Charles Durning, into thinking he will be playing in an important venue in England in the hometown of William Shakespeare surrounded by mobs of adoring fans. Instead he is in a small town community theater production being put on by a dedicated group of amateurs who are just trying to keep their theater from sinking into oblivion. Steel is the only big name they can afford, but if they can draw in a decent crowd, and with the support of a local brewer, they hope they just might make it. There are many parallels between the story of Lear and the story of Jefferson Steel. The character of Lear is old and delusional, Steel is fast approaching that same state, and the theater in which it all takes place is old and decrepit. Lear has daughter problems, and so does Steel. Steel has a hard time shifting from being a Hollywood star to doing legitimate theater in the middle of "a bunch of amateurs." He expects to be catered to and treated like royalty, just as Lear does after he has given up the throne. At one point he says he doesn't think he will be able to do the mad scene on the heath, and ultimately he winds up doing the scene for real as his world collapses around him. It's a fairly low budget production and the seams tend to show a bit, but it does have a lot of good stuff in it, and it has an excellent supporting cast. Anything with Imelda Staunton, Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Charles Durning in it has got to be worth watching. The final resolution of the difficulties with the theater and Steel's relationship with his daughter is kind of easy to see coming, but as I said, it's worth watching. The biggest weakness is Burt Reynolds' performance. The character he plays is supposed to be aging and out of touch, but I could not help but wonder at times how much of it was acting and how much real. Maybe Reynolds is that good of an actor, but there were parts of the film where I felt uncomfortable watching him stumble around not seeming to be quite in touch with the camera. He does ultimately deliver a good Lear although I was reminded of when Lawrence Olivier did Othello. He asked Orson Welles if he had any advice on how to do the part. Welles said, don't do it. Othello is a natural baritone while Olivier was a natural tenor. With an incredible amount of hard work, Olivier transformed himself into a baritone. It's the same thing here. Lear is a baritone, and Reynolds is a tenor, but he never makes the transformation. If you like this film, you might also like a film called A Midwinter's Tale (1995). It's the same idea, a group of actors trying to put on a Shakespeare play against seemingly insurmountable odds.
You know that some films don't make much sense overall, and some hold together pretty well but fall apart at the end, well, this one doesn't make sense on a minute-to-minute basis. The direction is choppy and uneven. The actors can be divided up into those who are incompetent amateurs and those who are competent but unwilling to put any effort into this turkey. The screenwriters occasionally attempted to be clever, with references to other, better SF films, etc., but for the most part their attempts fell flat. Granted, the look of the film was professional and glossy, but it was slapped together in such a haphazard fashion that it only points up what a missed opportunity this was. The basic idea of beauteous babes on motorcycles battling killer androids directed by a evil genius held a lot of promise. It could have been very cool. If they had done interesting camera angles, if they had not interrupted the story with stupid flashbacks, if they had kept the story simple and logical scene by scene, if the characters had been a little more sympathetic, if, if, if a lot of things might have worked together better to make a film worth watching, which this one was not.
It's all very well to try and put this movie in perspective and say it was made on a very small budget, in a very short period of time, and say that it has humor in it and competent actors, but even with all of that, it is still poorly made. If you're going to put it in perspective, compare it to the work of Roger Corman. There was a film producer who knew how to turn out a piece of junk that was not merely bearable to watch but was actually entertaining. This film has flashes of entertainment but have you ever tried reading by a light bulb that only works intermittently? It gives you a headache. Speaking of Corman, one of the so-called moments of interest in this film was a reference to his 1957 "Attack of the Crab Monsters". In fact, there are so many references to other films in "7 Adventures" that I think that was the point of the movie. I think the film makers sat around a box of wine and said, "If we stick in enough references film aficionados will think we're clever." Well, I'm sorry to say, it doesn't work unless you come up to a certain standard of quality. It doesn't have to be a very high standard of quality, but it does have to have a narrative coherence, which "7 Adventures" does not.
This Laurel and Hardy film is probably a spoof of a film called "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" that was released earlier the same year. Even though it's titled "Bonnie Scotland" it has very little to do with Scotland. The boys show up in a Scottish village, located somewhere on the back lot of the Hal Roach Studios in Hollywood, after being informed that Stan is an heir to a portion of the estate of a deceased lord. They are disappointed in their hope for riches and in financial straits, so they join the British army. They wind up on the Northwest Frontier in British Colonial India, located just around the corner from Scotland somewhere on the back lot of the Hal Roach Studios in Hollywood. Stan and Ollie provide their usual high jinks and a good time is generally had by all, but the film suffers the same problems of most of their feature length films. The studio filled the script with alternative plots that didn't focus on Mr. Hardy and Mr. Laurel. The plot of "Bonnie Scotland" involves a thwarted romance between the heiress of the lord's estate and a penniless law clerk. It is rather boring and certainly interferes with the comedy. One of the funniest scenes involves Stanley, who is chronically incapable of staying in step with the rest of the soldiers. At one point he gets the soldier next to him to fall into step with him and this gradually spreads until the entire regiment is in step with Stanley. The climax involves a great deal of slapstick and ultimately nothing in the various plots is resolved.
Filmmakers too often throw a lot of scenes together without regard to how they interact logically. One scene will follow another without a sense of consistent action. The filmmaker knows what he wants to say to the audience but he gets caught up in each individual scene and will not have a feel for the overall production. This problem is not uncommon, but it is rectified by the hands of a skillful editor. Unfortunately, skillful editors can sometimes be difficult to come by. "Ghost Taxi", as it is known in the USA, is a prime example of this. There are a number of clever scenes but overall, the film does not make much sense. The hero dies in a crash. His girlfriend is threatened by the evil spirit that caused his own death. He fights to save her and dispose of the evil spirit. This would probably make a decent comedy, spooky movie if it were made by Will Ferrell.
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