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Thunder in Paradise (1994)
Silly, Dumb and a Lot of Fun! A-Team meets Miami Vice meets Bay Watch
I don't care what anybody says, I think these were great fun! As I said in the title, it was A-Team meets Miami Vice meets Bay Watch.
Guns, Girls, Gangsters, Gadgets and Good old fashioned fun with a capital Thunder which starts with T and rhymes with P and stands for Pool, swimming pool, that is. This is an action adventure fantasy show full of explosions, machine guns, girls in bikinis, guys in, well, swimming trunks and heaps of ham acting. And nobody dies, either! That's right, not one person is killed-to-death on this show. Nobody. Nor is there even any blood in sight, well real sickening blood, that is. Sure, the cuts and scrapes that any action hero gets in a normal day on the job are there to be seen, but nothing like you'd witness even on the tamest action flick (or computer game) nowadays. So, for me, Thunder in Paradise is sort of like Scooby Doo, only LIVE action.
It's all good formula stuff: The good guys, ex-Navy SEALs, invariably get into some kind of mess and try to find a way out of it which undoubtedly complicates things into an even bigger mess. Along the way they save the girl (or girls!), save the beach, save the hotel, save the kind old man or anyone else who needs help, and put the bad guys away - for good! Not to mention, they always get the girl in the end. Well, almost always. Oh, did I mention the huge amount of gorgeous bodies in the background of almost every beach scene? I think this show might hold the record. Carol Alt, who co-starred in it, is no slouch either. But the reigning star of the show is 'Thunder' the scarab experimental one-off water weapon that 'Spence' has built for the Navy. Hi partner 'Bru', and buddy for life pilots the hi-tech craft through calm harbors, rough seas or bullet-riddled jungle lagoons. This thing goes anywhere. And so does the plot for that matter! But you can be sure, by the story's end our heroes will be banged-up, bruised and aching, but also smiling ear to ear back at their favorite beach watering hole, the Scuttlebutt Bar N' Grill, run by Carol Alt's character 'Kelly LaRue'.
The jokes and fun, action and fights between our heroes played by Hulk Hogan and Chris Lemon (yes, Jack's son), and whatever bad guys come along, is nothing short of fantastic mediocrity! And that's why I love it. It doesn't try to be perfect or even high brow. This is simply a fun, B-movie ride of adventure and melodrama in the same way the old serials used to be - you know, those shorts that inspired "Raiders of the Lost Ark"?
Anyway, I loved it. When TV was like this, (A-Team, etc.) when there were limits as to how serious a show could get or how much gore could be shown (or inferred) for general audiences to ingest we had a lot less problems occurring in society, didn't we? A connection? Cause and effect? Does media influence society? You decide. As for me, I've already decided. Besides, I don't want to turn this review into a Marshall McCluhan seminar. All I know is, innocent, good-natured fun like this wasn't influencing young minds and inspiring disturbing behavior in real life to go out and do nasty things, or worse yet, be immune and sensitized when someone else does. Can you say the same about today's TV shows, usually glorifying a sadistic serial killer, or having us see up-close the gruesome details of a crime scene investigation which spares no blood, guts, organs and sickening details of torture for our viewing pleasure? All that stuff is child's play for most children nowadays who can recite from memory how to cut up a body for disposal, use bleach to remove DNA from a crime scene or how a month-old corpse looks when dredged up from a river. Well, that may be your cup of tea, but I believe in garbage in / garbage out. And thankfully, we get to choose our own garbage.
You can have your torture and stylish autopsies. I'll take fun in the sun and silly paradise any day.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Don't read reviews about this film. Just watch it.
Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" is simply a masterpiece. A perfect film.
There's no need to take it apart scene by scene or examine its plot, its themes or do a character study of George Bailey. No need to attach more meaning than was intended, to imagine symbols where they don't exist, or to ignore the ones that do. No need at all. For if you are one of the many, the growing many who cannot watch this film without tasting tears, tears of joy, tears of sadness, then you know exactly what I am talking about - that further discussion would only serve to diminish the film's beauty.
There are few films that are in this category, that hit notes as true as this. "Casablanca" is one, "It's a Wonderful Life" is another, where everything comes together, where magic is not only seen in one scene, but in every scene, every line, every look and moment in the film. Pure magic. That's what this is, folks. Pure magic. It's the stuff dreams are made of.
And the less talk about it the better. We talk too much nowadays, anyway.
Just watch it and let it move you to joy, to tears, and tears of joy.
Breaking Away (1979)
Breaking Away is my Willoughby.
I recently saw this on the big screen here in Tokyo (July 2012).
I hadn't seen it for years, going back decades probably. I saw it originally when it came out, as I was only a couple of years junior to those portrayed on the screen. Like others have mentioned, the acting was superb and true to life. Not one second on screen do you feel anyone is acting. Dennis Christopher as lead character David Stoller is really a joy to behold. His enthusiasm is never forced or fake. He pulls it off beautifully.
And Dennis Quaid's Mike character is probably all too common in this world of high school stars peaking with graduation. His story is quietly repeated among so many who saw their best years in high school only to watch others get the longer lasting glory. The speeches he gives are poignant, deep and yet perfectly fitting of his character. He does a wonderful job of showing the frustration of change.
Daniel Stern's Cyril is perfect as the more comical of the bunch - simply perfect casting. Some of his lines are just priceless.
And Jack Earl Haley and 'Moocher' looks like so many of us looked like back then, me included (though I wasn't short). Long straggly hair, t shirt, jeans and string-bean skinny.
Paul Dooley and Barbara Barrie were wonderful. As were the brief shots of others at the Little 500. I can only imagine they were locals hired as extras.
Hart Bochner (Lloyd's son) did a fine job as the snob jock. Gotta admit, they didn't come better looking than that back then. I sometimes wonder if Paul McTiernan didn't intentionally subject Hart to that somewhat comical but deadly ending in "Die Hard" out of payback for being such a jerk in "Breaking Away".
Katherina played by Robyn Douglass was wonderful. She had that perfect look of girls you would just die for back then. She even resembled a girl me and my pals were all in love with back in Chatham Township high school. I loved her scenes and her moment when she finds out the truth. Really jolts you out of your seat. Choked me up.
Watching this film really made me aware of how we've changed, not just in our clothing or hair styles, but in our entire lives. Everything is brand-name now, everyone is so conscious of who made the object they desire and how much it cost. The more expensive the better. Everything is new and shiny. Every single element in a movie is examined from eyeglasses to shoes to pens. Everything is measured for its affluence and brand quality.
Back then, we had Schwinns, Huffys, Raleighs, even Sears and whatever else we could afford. We wore clothes just like those kids in the movie wore, T shirts, old jeans cut-offs in summer, and ripped up sneakers. We had fishing holes or swimming holes and spent enormous amounts of time riding bikes, or just laying in the grass or on rocks in the sun, or up in some tree house, just thinking or talking or planning out the universe... and also about girls, which none of us had actually had any meaningful contact with yet. A magical time in a boy's life.
Reminds me of the time we discovered an old playboy in the woods under a fallen tree. It was a huge deal with us at the time. We'd hide it back under the tree trunk wrapped in some plastic and go back to it when we were back there. Nowadays, the most descriptive and graphic porn that even Ripley wouldn't believe is simply a click away 24/7. It's a different world, indeed.
(Ironically, as a side note, the Playboy issue, we found out years later was the one that highlighted the ill-fated Dorothy Stratton.)
Nowadays, can you imagine anyone, especially a 19 year old kid sitting still out in nature or anywhere else for that matter for even ten seconds without whipping out a smart-phone or some other gadget? Or being seen not having just the right clothes, just the right Nikes or Adidas sneakers? We had converse back then, and they were the cheap sneakers.
It's just sad that such a time in life is gone forever, not just in the styles which were, yes, sloppy, an unkempt, but in the way kids lived. It's an entirely different world today and I wouldn't trade my childhood in the 70s and early 80s with any kid today for all the money in the world.
I sat through the film twice, loving it so much and knowing I'd probably never get a chance to see it on the big screen again. Watching it with tears in my eyes, I really felt such an urge that if I could have, I would've climbed into that screen in a second to go back to that time once again that is never more. Just like Willoughby must've been to Rod Serling.
Vietnam in HD (2011)
Don't Listen to the Armchair Critics. See it.
Did I miss something here?
This was an excellent production. As some stated, a 'must see' for students of history and those interested in the Vietnam War.
It's a recollection, a compilation using home movie footage, archival footage, material released through FOIA, and plenty of other sources never before assembled together to present a very personal view of what it was like to fight in Vietnam and to be at home waiting for the loved one to return.
A personal view.
Judging by the criticisms of others here, complaining that the series is too patriotic or pro- American, I have to say, did you watch the same documentary as I did? Simply because the production focuses on American soldiers in this conflict does not make it jingoistic. It simply means it's from a perspective. Good grief, lighten up.
What I saw were personal stories, stories of men asked - no, make that ordered, drafted into action for their country (in this case, the United States). Action most neither asked for nor wanted. Yet, action they fulfilled nevertheless.
What I did NOT see was the flag waving jingoism many here are complaining about. If anything, this documentary illustrates the futility of that conflict and how the American leadership lacked the moral justification to order young men into battle. Yet, the men who were ordered to do so, did the best they could under the worst of circumstances, only to come home to the misguided anger, hate and violence of American protesters, which some of the comments here seem to side with.
This is a well produced, illustrative and interesting production on the personal side of Americans in Vietnam, right up there with the outstanding works of PBS's "Vietnam A Television History" and Stanley Karnow's companion book.
Like I said above, ignore the critics. See it.
It's no "My Dinner With Andre", but it sure is a lot of fun!
I'm not going to write a five page essay here that took three hours to write about how I want my two hours back after watching this film.
I knew what it was going in. So should you. Spare yourself the tomes of negative or even positive reviews and watch it for yourself if you so desire.
It's a fun movie. If you want more logic in the plot, more realism, see something that has more of those things. But don't waste your time reading others' criticisms of this or any other movie. Movies, like music, and most everything else in life, are subjective to one's taste.
Never listen to anyone else's take on these things - including mine.
Personally, I happen to enjoy small, talky movies. This was exactly opposite of that... and I loved it.
Hope you do, too. Have fun!
Der 3. Weltkrieg (1998)
Excellent, thought-provoking production for those interested in the Cold War era.
Contrary to what some find objectionable or even biased, the Soviet Union was, at that time, literally on the brink of what is depicted to have happened in this faux documentary.
I found this production unbiased and well-researched, showing that many within both the Soviet politburo and military were against any military action, as were their counterparts in the west, but that an alternative was impractical for their survival.
The use of news footage reminds us that the events shown did happen. Of course, they are not linked to the events depicted - sometimes occurring in different regions or even countries. But their use does show us that the human condition is very fragile and governments and populations can explode into erratic, violent directions sometimes with little more than fine print writing on the proverbial wall.
As someone who not only lived through that era, but served in a capacity to have access to many events that went unreported, I can say without fear of contradiction that this film does not even scratch the surface as to the amount and severity of close calls and opportunities for war which have occurred.
Many times by luck and others by the action of even a single individual prevented what might have been a third world war.
All in all, I found this to be a wholly believable scenario of a Cold War 'what if...'.
The Treasure of Jamaica Reef (1974)
This film is a Treasure
OK, well, not really, but I DID enjoy it. Yes, I did. And I even watched it online, streaming, so the copy was even worse than the poor quality VHS hinted at in other comments. But, heck, I loved it. Sure it's clunky, silly, and ridiculous, but it's fun! So, count me in!
Cheryl Ladd, Stephen Boyd, Chuck Woolery, Rosie Grier and that hugely awkward wood barrel van! They all put a smile on my face. And maybe yours too! Don't take life so seriously. When it comes to movies, music and art, relax, take it in, and don't take anybody's word for anything. Experience them all yourself.
Would you trust another person, a stranger, to tell you what music to listen to? I didn't think so. So, you shouldn't do it with any film and not with this film, either. So, like I said, check it out. You may find yourself smiling before you know it.
Ignore the Plot Summary
Great film by Zoltan Korda.
Ignore the plot summary on this. It's not only inaccurate, it's completely and intentionally misguided.
Sahara is far from being a so called 'propaganda' piece for the government as the plot summary written by a college student from a famous activist university.
For anyone to suggest that Zoltan was a silent mouthpiece for the government, any government, let alone a western one, shows the utter lack of knowledge of him, his far left political leanings, of Humphrey Bogart, who was a left leaning actor himself, and a lack of any knowledge of this film as well, undoubtedly, of many other things.
Disregard and dispatch with the plot summary misguidedness as a classic case of a college student indoctrinated by professors.
With that aside, enjoy this film for it is a fine adventure war flick. Takes place in Libya at the outset of WWII, when the Americans sent tank regiments into Africa to aid in stopping the German Afrika Corps units in their quest to usurp the British, French colonial presence in throughout the continent.
Bogart does a fine job in this one. He's backed by a well picked and entertaining cast headed up by Bruce Bennett who he would later star with in the John Huston classic Treasure of Sierra Madre.
This film highlights in a well shot, well scored story what is most important to men in battle. The personal stories that are shared, including the humorous wive's tales by the Sudanese and the Italian and the rancorous wit of the typesetter Londoner make for fine dialog scenes bringing out the differences and the similarities of men from across many lands.
The action is well paced and nothing to be ashamed of, especially considering this film was made during the war! It is for that reason that perhaps the misguided college student assumed it was propaganda. Then we must assume that all films not critical of fighting a war are propaganda and all films critical of fighting a war are benevolent and truthful? Hardly a reality any sane person would subscribe to.
As the late great, and no fan of government George Carlin said after 9/11, "Pacism is a great idea, but we're not there yet. It doesn't work unless both sides are playing by those rules. They're not. It's time to kick some a$$." And as George Orwell stated in his criticism of fellow socialists, 'Pacism in time of war is treason."
Those old enough to remember the threat during WWII, to remember what happened and what was likely to happen if America did nothing, if Great Britain caved in, know full well that most youth today wouldn't exist as they do, and therefore wouldn't have the ability to speak the nonsense they so often, and relentlessly utter.
All I can say is, thank goodness for men like those portrayed in this film (based on a Russian story). Men who would die for a funny thing called liberty. Men who would die and no one would know their names. No one then, and especially, judging by commentary seen here, and other places like Tonight Show's Jay Walking, yes, especially now.
But there is hope. For with every misguided, indoctrinated utterance of ignorance, with every naive regurgitation of a misplaced socialist professor's ideals transplanted into a young empty skull decrying the efforts of good men in the past, I take solace in knowing that it serves as a reminder that good did triumph over evil, and that liberty and freedom won the day. That we have the freedom to be stupid. To be ignorant. To imagine we know better than those that came before. That is our reward for our efforts. Was it worth it? Who can say? But the men portrayed in this film would answer with a resounding 'yes'. Too bad no one is taught about them in schools anymore to even bother to care.
This Is Not a Test (1962)
Don't listen to them.
This is Not A Test is no masterpiece. But, it's not a bad movie either. In fact, I will argue that it's rather well made.
It is essentially an elongated Twilight Zone episode combining elements of Martian in a Diner with The Shelter and Maple Street.
Many here ridicule this film saying it's horribly done, bad acting, etc. This is wholly incorrect. Most self appointed experts on films commenting here and other places often complain in like deed and manner, using the same phrases and complaints.
This film was shot, composed, scored, and sound recorded professionally, albeit with a lower budget than A pictures.
This film was shot with skill. The sound is without any noticeable errors, drops, or sound asymmetry, with dialog, Foley, score, incidental music doing what they are supposed to do. Comparing this film to Ed Wood's is way off base. Wood's films are very poorly made (and lovable).
Too many times, people trash old films making clichéd generalizations that it's 'crap' or 'shoestring budget' or has 'wooden acting' etc. I'd wager those who make such comments have never made a movie, or probably anything else creative in their lives, certainly not on a scale of a motion picture, even a lower budget one. Sorry, Youtube videos don't count. Such people, and we have a lot of them these days, find it easy to make such blanket statements.
Ignore them. For it is the easiest thing in the world to ridicule something as if you are an authority, and it's the most foolish thing in the world to believe it.
I'm not saying this film is great. It's classic B movie drive-in fare. But, that doesn't mean that skill wasn't involved, or that professionals didn't do their best with what they had to work with to put an entertaining picture on the big screen. I urge you, if you care, to just take any shot in the film, pick any one, or any scene, and look where the camera was placed, what angle, how is it composed? What can you see in the shot, does the camera move, and if so, is it smoothly done? How are the shots mixed? Does the variety of divergent shots create a feeling you can describe? How is the mixture of shots set up to build tension? Are close ups used? Long shots? Mid shots? Two shots? Overhead shots, low angles? Thru windows, around objects? Dolly shots? Crane shots? Moving vehicle shots? What shots were done in a studio? How many did it take to complete a scene?
How are the actors' eye lines? Do they match up, or are they looking in the wrong direction, wrong angle, wrong side of the frame? Do they move off their marks?
Did they flub their lines? How is the wardrobe? Do they look "wardrobed"? How about their hair? Does their hair change suddenly shot to shot, as is often the case when continuity is not managed well?
How is the cutting? The editing? Does it make sense? Is it convincing that things are happening in real time, even though a 1 minute scene may have taken all night or one week or month of nights to shoot? Did the editor develop a rhythm within each scene, and an overall one for the entire story? Were sound bridges used, where actors' lines, or sound effects cross over visual cuts? Were many lines delivered off camera, so we can see reactions to the lines from the other players?
How are the sound effects used? Are they convincing? Or out of sync? The crickets? Do they suddenly stop for no reason shot by shot, or are the sound effects consistently maintained? Is the police car radio convincing? How about the static from the other cars' radios? Door slams? Were they foleyed well? Do you see any mic booms? Light set ups? Can you even tell how they lit each scene, so we could see what we should see and not see what we shouldn't? There is no large lampposts, yet we believe we should see them. How is this violation of reality accomplished so the viewer doesn't have it ruin the illusion.
The above is only the tip of the iceberg of what a filmmaker goes through for each second, each frame of film that is shot. Remember this is film, not video.
If you are the type of person who makes fun of B/W movies, old TV shows, music made before you were a teenager, then don't bother watching it. You've got greater issues to deal with and you need all the time you have left on earth to deal with them.
If on the other hand you are one who has an open mind, and enjoys fun movies, then take a peak. You may like it. It may stay with you. You may surprise yourself.
One of the worst things to ever happen to cinema, to old movies in particular (and all movies become old movies eventually) was Mystery Science Theater. Even though it was very funny, and a good concept - we often did the exact same thing in college way before MST did it, as did probably many of you out there - it cued many young people into thinking ALL old movies, ALL B movies should be made fun of. This was a dire mistake and has transformed into a tragedy. It has brought upon us an avalanche of cynical so-called experts who strive to elicit the end-all cut or put-down of such fare as This is Not A Test.
The challenge in life is not to find things to ridicule, but rather to find the beauty in things others can't see, and maybe, with a little luck, show it to them.
The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
Simply, a Masterpiece
There's something about these kinds of gems that can't be denied. And that is, that they stink. But I love them, nonetheless. In fact, if it didn't stink to high heaven in its bad execution from start to finish, I'd probably not like it. Even worse, if it was a big budget film with excellent directing, acting, and everything else that we've come to expect in good films, it would last a week in a theater, be on DVD after that and be in the cheap bin two weeks after that like Event Horizon and other such modern well-executed but ho-hum awful films.
Nope. This kind of bad lasts forever.
There, does that make sense?