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Birthdate: September 25
I bid you...velcome.
I'm a shameless movie fanatic who especially favours the following genres:
Favourite directors include:
George A. Romero
Eddie Macon's Run (1983)
"Balls spelled backwards is desperation." You learn something new every day!
Eddie Macon (John Schneider of 'Dukes of Hazzard' TV fame) is a basically good man, who's ended up in prison on trumped-up charges. Before the movie begins, he's already attempted one escape, and as it opens, he's pulling off another one. If he gets caught again, he's going back in for life. He takes off on foot for Mexico, to reunite with his wife Chris (Leah Ayres) and son Bobby (Matthew Meece). Relentlessly pursuing him is stubborn, over the hill detective Carl Marzack (Kirk Douglas), who wants to prove to himself that he's still got what it takes to be a cop. At least, that's what he tells a friend.
In his first film vehicle, the engaging Schneider does a creditable job, playing a likable enough guy with the odds stacked against him. Among other episodes, Eddie will be threatened by a snake, tormented by redneck ranching family the Potts, and end up in the company of Jilly Buck (lovely Lee Purcell, delivering the movies' most interesting performance), who is willing to provide him assistance for no other reason than that it's a "slow Wednesday". Schneider provides a fair amount of beefcake moments for those that are interested, and also croons two songs on the soundtrack.
Competently shot (by James A. Contner), decently paced (director Jeff Kanew, who adapted the novel by James McLendon, was also the editor), and well acted, "Eddie Macon's Run" is not a great chase picture, but it is an adequate one, although there may be viewers that will wish there was more action. (There's actually only ONE car crash in this whole thing.) Douglas may be a little old for his role, but he's fun to watch. The first rate supporting cast features a respectable amount of familiar faces: Lisa Dunsheath, Tom Noonan, and Jay O. Sanders as the aforementioned Potts family, J.C. Quinn, Gil Rogers, Todd Allen, Nesbitt Blaisdell, Matthew Cowles, Vic Polizos, Dann Florek, J.T. Walsh (in his film debut), John Goodman, and Mark Margolis.
All in all, "Eddie Macon's Run" is not memorable but it IS entertaining.
Seven out of 10.
An absorbing dark comedy.
"Go" worked well enough for this viewer due to a quick pace, an engaging cast, a fair amount of chuckles, and a decent amount of entertainment value overall. It might not work for others due to the fact that there's nobody here to really root for. Too many of the characters are senseless or sordid. It also might have worked better if it weren't so obviously influenced by the Quentin Tarantino filmography. But it does an okay job of telling three connected stories, and tying them all together at the end. Director Doug Liman creates flashy visuals in the attempt to make this a hip and stylish affair.
Four people get their stories told. Ronna (Sarah Polley) is a supermarket cashier in desperate need of cash to prevent her own eviction. So she gets in over her head trying to make a drug deal. Simon (Desmond Askew) is one of her co-workers who wants to have a wild weekend with his buddies in Las Vegas, and is willing to pay Ronna to work his shift. Finally, we see what happens to gay couple Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr) - both of them actors - when they get in trouble with the law and agree to help quirky cop Burke (William Fichtner) with a sting operation.
Some of these actors make this more watchable than it may have been otherwise. Fichtner is particularly funny (and for those interested, he bares his backside), Askew is amusing although his character is a dolt, and Timothy Olyphant does well as a drug dealer. Katie Holmes, Nathan Bexton, Taye Diggs, Breckin Meyer, James Duval, Tane McClure, Jimmy Shubert, J.E. Freeman, Jay Paulson, and Jane Krakowski round out this cast. Future star Melissa McCarthy can be seen in a bit.
There is some fun to be had as the screenwriter, John August, and Liman, go about their business of assembling all of these separate episodes into a whole. The movie as a whole is nothing special, but it does provide a reasonable diversion for 102 minutes.
Seven out of 10.
Damnation Alley (1977)
Entertaining for what it is.
Silly post-apocalypse road movie is amusing enough to give it some sort of cult status, even though it's really not that good. The actors giving the better performances tend to get less screen time. One can see that the filmmakers, led by director Jack Smight, are clearly working against the limits of special effects technology at the time, rendering this more of a cheese fest than anything else. Those light shows in the stormy skies ARE pretty trippy, though. Pacing is adequate enough; this runs a scant 92 minutes long. But that makes one wish that more could have been done with the source material, a novel by Roger Zelazny (adapted for the big screen by Alan Sharp ("Night Moves" '75) and Lukas Heller ("What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?")). The movie is modestly diverting, but also disappointing.
WWIII causes complete devastation throughout the continental United States. A team of Air Force personnel who have designed ultra cool tanks / vans dubbed "Landmasters" decide to take the safest path possible (which one of them has named "Damnation Alley") to Albany, the only place from which they've ever received a radio signal. The characters include domineering tough guy Denton (George Peppard), cheerful Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent), leading lady Janice (Dominique Sanda), easygoing Keegan (Paul Winfield) and teenager Billy (Jackie Earle Haley).
The odd lack of continuity creates some guffaw-inducing WTF moments; watch as switches are made from real people to dummies. The visual effects can charitably be described as negotiable. Still, there's some fun to be had in seeing giant scorpions super imposed on the desert settings. And if people aren't squirming from seeing those, there's an onslaught of killer armour-plated cockroaches that make quick work of one poor guy. Hell, there's even a bunch of survivalist rednecks (led by Robert Donner, who sports a hilariously ridiculous looking beard) with which to contend.
Co-starring Kip Niven ("New Year's Evil") as another of the military guys, this also features Murray Hamilton in a noticeable but non-speaking uncredited role.
At the very least, this has some decent widescreen photography by Harry Stradling Jr. and a typically excellent score by the always reliable Jerry Goldsmith.
This is one of the rare cases where it would be interesting to see somebody attempt another version of the tale.
Six out of 10.
The Bay (2012)
A good effort in this overdone sub-genre.
"The Bay" certainly marks an offbeat choice of material for its Oscar-winning veteran director Barry Levinson ("Diner", "Rain Man"). The premise is that the residents of the small oceanside town of Claridge, Maryland, become victims of a horrifying ecological disaster. Naturally, authorities have tried to suppress the truth, but it's now coming out thanks to the work of people like reporter Donna (Kether Donohue). It's determined that possible excess improper disposal of chicken excrement may have accelerated a mutation in the life of animals called isopods. They're absolutely hideous parasites that eat away at larger animals from both the inside and outside. Now there's an outbreak of these things, and people are suffering some pretty nasty deaths.
For this viewer, what gave "The Bay" an edge over other, similar entries in the "found footage" sub genre are two things. First, there is some attempt made at a realistic depiction of the events. While there are the expected gross out moments (and very nice makeup effects) and jump scares here and there, Levinson mostly focuses on human reactions to the escalating crisis. Second, the characters are thankfully not purely annoying as one might come to expect from this sort of thing. Yes, we have your standard-issue slimy lowlife politician, mayor Stockman (Frank Deal), but again, Levinson doesn't dwell too long on stereotypes, but gives us a scenario that's gripping. We can sympathize a little too much with the idea of infection, and wince at the tortures that individuals must suffer through. The scenes are presented in the form of footage culled from video cameras, web cams, and cell phones, and one can get caught up in the story.
Performances are decent enough from the no-name cast, who look more like real people than can be found in more mainstream fare. Location work, camera work, and lighting are all more than adequate. Also, we never see too much of the menace, but get just enough visuals to squirm in our seats.
Overall, this is solid entertainment.
Eight out of 10.
The Public Enemy (1931)
Cagney lights up the screen.
Legendary gangster picture for Warner Bros. was an appropriate follow-up to "Little Caesar", their first vehicle for Edward G. Robinson. Of course, this film did the same for the dynamic James Cagney, initially intended to have a supporting role. But Darryl F. Zanuck realized a powerful presence when he saw one, and knew Cagney was right for the juicy lead role. Filmed in potent matter of fact style by William A. Wellman, this has a number of scenes that have rightfully become favourites to classic cinema lovers. That grapefruit moment is certainly one that always comes to mind. With some excellent supporting players to help him out, Cagney makes this essential viewing for any fan of this genre.
He plays Tom Powers, obviously destined from the start to be something of a bad boy. Played as a child by Frank Coghlan Jr., he begins as a street hustler until he attracts the attention of big players in the local mobs, such as Paddy Ryan (Robert Emmett O'Connor) and "Nails" Nathan (Leslie Fenton). With his equally seedy friend Matt Doyle (Edward Woods) in tow, he rises to greater prominence, taking no garbage from anybody - men and women alike - and often giving in to a hair-trigger temper.
Throughout this bitterly dramatic story, Cagney will do such things as commit murder (although always offscreen) - against both man and animal - and spit beer in one unlucky bartenders' face. You could tell that this man was a star in the making. The women here will often be faced with his wrath, although the radiant Jean Harlow as Gwen will fare better than others. Beryl Mercer is the mother who suspects Tom is no saint but will accept his gifts of money, Donald Cook is the angry brother Mike who KNOWS he's no good, lovely Joan Blondell is Mamie, the woman who catches Matts' eye, and Murray Kinnell is the ultimately pathetic character "Putty Nose". An uncredited Mae Clarke has the distinction of appearing in THAT breakfast scene.
Far from glorifying the life of this hoodlum, which was a criticism aimed at these early gangster films, "The Public Enemy" does have a chilling but not exactly implausible ending. It's just one of the factors that makes this such a fine viewing.
Eight out of 10.
Crime does not pay.
"Fortress" is mostly routine, but enjoyable, futuristic sci-fi from director Stuart Gordon (of "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond" fame). It has an excellent cast of familiar faces that make the most out of what they've got, especially Kurtwood Smith ("RoboCop", 'That 70s Show'). There are acceptable levels of violence and gore, the production design and lighting are adequate, and Gordon does a very fine job with pacing and energy level. The producers originally wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger as the star, but he went on to do "True Lies" instead (it was Ah-nuld that suggested Gordon as the director of this feature).
Some interesting ideas are present in this tale of a husband and wife, John and Karen (Christopher Lambert and Loryn Locklin) who are expecting their second child, despite the fact that the law now forbids couples from having more than one kid. (They tried again because the first child was born dead.) They're caught and sentenced to do time at the "Fortress", a massive, multi leveled high tech prison. It's run by your standard issue sadistic warden, a man named Poe (Mr. Smith). John, forced into an overcrowded cell, makes plans with his cellmates to escape, although this place is supposed to be escape-proof.
Lambert is no better or worse than he usually is. Locklin is reasonably appealing. The supporting cast is pretty eclectic: Lincoln Kilpatrick ("Chosen Survivors", Renny Harlins' "Prison") as Abraham, Jeffrey Combs of the "Re-Animator" series (rocking a shoulder length wig here) as D-Day, Clifton Collins Jr. ("Tigerland", "Pacific Rim") as Gomez, Tom Towles ("House of 1000 Corpses", "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer") as Stiggs, and Vernon Wells ("The Road Warrior", "Commando") as Maddox. That's Gordons' actress wife Carolyn supplying the voice of the computer intelligence Zed-10. Smith, whose character will have some surprises in store, is an effective and not completely one-dimensional antagonist.
"Fortress" hits the ground running, and offers decent entertainment for a fairly trim 95 minute run time.
Seven out of 10.
Shock Treatment (1981)
Denton, Denton, you've got no pretension...
The further adventures of Brad and Janet Majors are detailed in this follow-up, rather than true sequel, to the cult phenomenon "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". Instead of paying tribute to classic schlock cinema, what screenwriter / songwriter / actor Richard O'Brien and screenwriter / director Jim Sharman do is savagely satirize the whole television industry. In so doing, they create a film that, while maybe not as memorable as RHPS, is fairly entertaining in its own right. You miss the presence of Tim Curry, but there are several other returnees from the first film. The efforts of the cast are really what make this work as well as it does. Not all of the songs are that great, but there are a few that are insidiously catchy.
Brad is now played by Cliff De Young and Janet by the lovely Jessica Harper. Their hometown of Denton has been transformed into one big TV studio in which a citizenry full of sheep gleefully take in an assortment of soap operas and game shows and the like. In fact, they're even made to live at the studio! Brad and Janet, in their attempt to salvage their now shaky marriage, are eventually made prisoners of the local TV programming, with maniacal business mogul Farley Flavors (also played by De Young) intending to make a star out of Janet.
Ms. Harper is such a pleasure to watch, especially when she dons that great black dress. De Young is fun in his dual roles. O'Brien and Patricia Quinn are delicious as the "doctors" who see to Brads' needs. Charles Gray and Ruby Wax do well as the two characters out to undermine the whole charade. Nell Campbell is fantastically sexy as the short skirted nurse. And Barry Humphries clearly enjoys himself as eccentric and flamboyant TV host Bert Schnick. Also appearing are Rik Mayall, Betsy Brantley, and Wendy Raebeck.
"Shock Treatment" is now notable, of course, for the way it portrays the reality television business and the way that celebrities can be manufactured out of any individual. It's not macabre and campy in the way that RHPS was, but it's still fairly wacky, and has a reasonable amount of energy to keep it going. Fans of "Network" may enjoy it just as much as any fans of "Rocky Horror".
Seven out of 10.
Chilling and believable.
"The Day the Earth Caught Fire" is a very fine British entry into that genre that came to be known as the disaster film. It's done in a very matter of fact, realistic way. In fact, what it really does is it stresses the human element. It might not be satisfactory to people who prefer less talk and more action, but it gives us a bunch of engaging characters whom we can actually care about. The script (by producer / director Val Guest & Wolf Mankowitz) is often very witty and funny. Scenes of destruction are ultimately kept to a minimum.
Edward Judd stars as reporter Peter Stenning, who's first to break a critical story. Earth has been knocked off its axis by the Americans and Russians, who performed atom bomb tests at roughly the same time. This causes much upheaval in the weather. Water evaporates and a strange mist covers Britain. However, the characters won't be aware of just how bad the news is for a while, and simply go about their daily business. Peter, a divorced father of one, begins romancing Jeannie Craig (Janet Munro), who becomes his contact.
It's worth noting that this ends in a rather brave way, forcing the audience to interpret things. It simply fades to black. (The words "The End" don't even appear.) The low key quality of the narrative works quite well, and the actors are all just wonderful. Judd is a personable hero and the sadly short lived, very lovely Munro is an endearing leading lady. Leo McKern delivers a delightful supporting performance as Peters' co-worker Bill Maguire. Real life newspaperman Arthur Christiansen plays the role of editor Jeff Jefferson, and that's a young Michael Caine as a cop directing traffic late in the film. The action is extremely well shot in Dyaliscope by Harry Waxman, and viewers are advised to check out the full 99 minute version with very striking tinted opening and closing sequences.
Very good of its type.
Eight out of 10.
The Stepfather (1987)
See it for O'Quinn.
"The Stepfather" is one of the better thrillers to come out of the 1980s: a very pointed look at one very old fashioned individuals' commitment to traditional values, or to put it another way, his intense, ongoing search for perfection. Perfection that, of course, we know can never really be obtained.
"Jerry Blake" (character actor Terry O'Quinn, in his legendary first starring role) is a mass murderer of families. He selects widows with children, ingratiates himself to the woman, and marries into the family. Desperately seeking an ideal American family, he inevitably erupts into violence whenever the family disappoints him. And then on he moves to another brood, and another fabricated life.
O'Quinns' wonderful performance, and the very resonant theme, help to make this a solid diversion. It's based on the real life story of John List, who'd murdered his whole family, and set himself up with a new identity in a new town. He wasn't caught until 'America's Most Wanted' came along in the late 1980s and profiled him. (As a matter of fact, his arrest coincided with the release of this films' first sequel.) The screen story is credited to authors Carolyn Lefcourt, Brian Garfield, and Donald E. Westlake, with Westlake writing the screenplay.
Efficiently directed by Joseph Ruben, this works towards a rather conventional finale, but until then is quite gripping. The lovely Jill Schoelen is appealing as the suspicious stepdaughter Stephanie, while Shelley Hack is adequate as Susan, the unsuspecting new woman in Jerry's life. Charles Lanyer, as kindly psychiatrist Dr. Bondurant, and Stephen Shellen, as Jim Ogilvie, are fine in support.
The opening sequence is nothing short of chilling, especially considering how calmly O'Quinn plays it. There is a fair amount of gore here, as well as some T & A supplied by Ms. Schoelen. The "Who am I here?" moment has become fairly iconic.
O'Quinn reprised his role for the first sequel, but for the third movie, it was recast with Robert Wightman.
Nine out of 10.
The Detective (1968)
A compelling drama.
Frank Sinatra is Detective Joe Leland, a weary but honest, principled man who ultimately must deal with big time corruption and big time ignorance. He is assigned the case of murder victim Teddy Leikman (James Inman), the homosexual son of one of NYC's movers and shakers. Soon enough, he's working another case, that of a successful accountant, Colin MacIver (William Windom) who fell to his death at a racetrack.
We in the audience suspect that these two cases are going to be connected somehow, yet we still are riveted as we watch Joe work the clues. Meanwhile, the film also functions as a moody character study, as Joe is shown in his work environment and must deal with a frustrated young wife, Karen (a radiant Lee Remick) who has a hard time remaining faithful.
Frank does well in the lead role, and gives us a multi layered portrayal of a man who must deal with very bigoted colleagues who feel nothing but contempt and hatred towards gays. He feels the pressure of having to come up with results, and wonders if he hasn't fallen victim to whatever prejudices he may be harbouring.
"The Detective" is filmed in very competent if not stylish fashion by director Gordon Douglas ("Them!"), and has the benefit of being shot in the Panavision aspect ratio. So it always looks good. The extremely strong supporting cast helps matters a lot: Ralph Meeker, Jack Klugman, Al Freeman Jr., and Robert Duvall as Joes' fellow detectives, Horace McMahon as his superior, a memorable Tony Musante as an agitated suspect, Lloyd Bochner as a psychiatrist, and the lovely ladies Ms. Remick and Jacqueline Bisset (as the accountants' widow). A baby faced Tom Atkins makes his screen debut as a patrolman whose peers read him the riot act for an impulsive action. Look also for George Plimpton and Joe Santos among the reporters.
In its time, this would have been a fairly daring examination of homophobia, whatever problems it may cause, and the victims it may create.
Based on a novel by Roderick Thorp, who'd also penned "Nothing Lasts Forever", the basis for the action classic "Die Hard".
Eight out of 10.